For other caffeine vendors, developing customer loyalty can be a little tougher, particularly if the location doesn't look like a traditional coffee shop. Mark Holmes took that gamble when he turned an 80-year-old former gas station at 5400 Troost into an attractive, comfortable java joint called The Coffee Break.
The brick exterior doesn't look much different from the way it appeared when Razorback Plumbing was its tenant. Mark's father, Robert Holmes, ran Razorback there for a quarter-century, until he retired a few years ago. But Mark Holmes spent nearly three years turning his dad's business headquarters into a coffeehouse.
"First, I had to get 25 years of plumbing equipment out of there," Holmes says. "Then I had to fill in the garage-door bays and put glass brick in the windows."
The Coffee Break celebrates its 1-year anniversary this month, and Holmes says he's learned a lot more in the past 12 months than how to make lattes and cappuccinos. "I've learned that it's really tough making a living on Troost," he says.
Being close to Rockhurst University and UMKC has helped, Holmes says, "but like any other place, you have to be open awhile to make people aware that you're here. And then they have to be encouraged to want to stop in."
I have to confess that I passed by The Coffee Break myself for a year without stopping. One day, looking for a place to eat a late lunch, I went inside and had a great chicken-salad sandwich, an almond croissant and an iced tea. I've been back several times since.
"I know it sounds corny," Holmes says, "but I want this place to be about more than just coffee. I want it to be a place where the community can meet."
They just need to find it first.