Talk about a romantic story: A few years ago, Chris Allen and his sister Molly Allen took classes at the Espresso Academy in Florence, Italy, and they soon fell in love with coffee roasting. They came back to Cleveland and launched Ready Set! Coffee a year ago, offering free same-day delivery of locally-roasted beans to customers and wholesale clients like the Rock Hall.
Now Allen and his team (including Jeff Dangremond and his mom, Margaret Allen) are opening their first brick-and-mortar location in the Gordon Square Arts District. They’re taking over the first floor of the long-empty former Dorn School of Expression owned by Tom Gillespie at West 73rd and Detroit. Ready Set! Coffee will begin by roasting beans there in their custom-built roaster, and plan to open a coffee shop focused on to-go orders early next year.
“It’s basically a coffee bar and a place where people can try specialty coffees,” said Allen. “Just as craft beer has taken off here, we want to create a hub where people can gather.”
Allen said seating will be limited at first due to the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, but he hopes to eventually create a place where people can hold meetings and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of coffee. “We’ve got two storefronts, and we’re using one side for production and one for the cafe, and there’s a small parking lot for to-go orders,” he explained.
Best known as the Cleveland rock-and-roller fronting bands like Roosevelt, The Boys from County Hell and the Ohio City Singers, Allen isn’t playing out much these days, understandably. “Everything I did as a career got wiped out. I used to play 200-250 days a year. Everything that Spotify destroyed for songwriters, Covid destroyed the rest. It’s really sad.”
“From the ashes, a new generation of musicians will figure out how to bring live music to people,” he added. “People miss it.”
Allen is glad to be drowning his sorrows in the success of his new homegrown business. He’s also excited to be opening a location in the Gordon Square Arts District. “It’s such a perfect fit for us in terms of what we’re doing,” he said.