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VOL. 129 | NO. 8 | Monday, January 13, 2014

 

Avenue Coffee Hoping to Make Difference in City

By Andy Meek

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A new coffee shop is opening near the University of Memphis soon, and the founders have a multipurpose mission for it.

Avenue Coffee is opening at 786 Echles St., two blocks south of the university. Once it’s up and running, the founders want Avenue to do everything from supporting local artists to championing social causes as well as serving a high quality cup of Joe.

In recent months, Avenue has been busy with renovations to its building and buying equipment. Co-founder Jaron Weidner said the venture is being run as a nonprofit business and has been working with charities, so its funding thus far has been through donations.

Becca Scaggs, from left, Jaron Weidner, Nick Griffin, Jordan Miller and Lizi Bliffen at Avenue Coffee near the University of Memphis.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Weidner is a Pennsylvania native who moved to Memphis to attend Visible Music College and study music business. The coffee shop was a project developed through Mid-South Christian College, where the other founders have attended, and Weidner joined the mix about a year ago.

“We’re really trying to take things a bit further than other coffee shops around town,” he said. “One of our taglines is ‘Quality, creativity, conversation.’”

In terms of quality, Avenue has teamed up with a local micro coffee roaster, Reverb Coffee, which will provide Avenue with its coffee. Supporting local vendors is a big part of what Avenue will focus on, so that was one reason they chose Reverb.

Another has to do with the first word in the tagline.

“When we tested some different coffee, his got really good reviews on blind taste tests,” Weidner said. “He also puts the roast dates on his bags of coffee, so you always know how fresh it is.”

Reverb owner Jeremy Harris said he got involved with the shop after meeting Nic Griffin, another of the founders.

“After hearing his vision for what he wanted to do with the café, they were a team that I definitely wanted to work with,” Harris said. “The way they chose my coffee was through an informal taste testing with all of their team members. They wanted to use someone local and of extremely high quality, so they put my product against some other companies, and decided to go with my coffee. We are both (looking) to do great things for the city, but also agree that putting forward a great product is the first and most important step.”

That fits with Harris’ mission for Reverb and his attention to the quality of his own product. Reverb brings in coffee from around the world, and Harris has a similarly high-minded mission for his venture, saying that Reverb is focused on “Great coffee for a greater good.”

Regarding the “creativity” portion of Avenue’s tagline, meanwhile, the shop will have artwork on the walls provided by local artists, and the plan is to also bring in local musicians to play.

Additionally, Avenue is looking to host screenings by local independent filmmakers.

Then there’s the “conversation” part of the tagline, which connotes a few things. Coffee drinkers will of course relax in the shop and chat with each other, but Avenue also is picking a different theme each month like clean water, for example, which will be the first month’s theme.

Avenue will choose an organization within that theme and donate a portion of Avenue’s proceeds to that organization. So, in a way, Avenue is sparking conversations around worthwhile causes in addition to selling coffee.

Also at Avenue, people will be able to write and draw on the walls, a la Huey’s. There will be a loft area and couches, to provide a bit of comfort.

And in addition to coffee, Avenue is planning to offer baked goods – things like cookies, muffins and cakes. The team also is discussing “simple sandwiches,” Weidner said.

The bottom line, he explained, is that the plan is for Avenue to make a difference in Memphis “one latte at a time.”

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