The return of a specialty café to Downtown Hazleton marks the latest in a long line of new businesses and cultural outlets that will open in the downtown in 2019.
Grateful Roast Coffee, a café featuring specialty coffees made with an in-house coffee roaster, will feature - along with its signature coffee, a menu that includes pastries, breakfast, and lunch items. The café is set to open in April in the former Dragonfly Café location at 9 East Broad Street.
The Hazleton cafe is the company’s second location, following the opening of the first Grateful Roast Coffee in Nanticoke three years ago. Owners Brian Williams and Sarah Kratz are planning a soft opening for April, followed by a grand opening in May. They expect the hours to be the same as the Nanticoke location: Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
As a native of Portland, Oregon, Williams grew up in the dominant coffee culture of the Pacific Northwest area. When he and Sarah moved to Northeast Pennsylvania to be closer to her family, they quickly realized that the region needed a quality coffee alternative to what was being served at chain coffee and donut shops. With that in mind, Williams began studying coffee roasting, building a business idea and making plans to open a café.
Although it took the couple several years to save the necessary funds to open a full service cafe, it didn’t deter their dreams of serving quality coffee to people in Northeast Pennsylvania.
Williams said, “I knew pretty early on that if we really wanted a coffee culture, we needed to build it ourselves. I took whatever start-up money we had saved and purchased a little two-kilo (four-pound maximum batch size) coffee roaster. I put that on my sun porch, purchased a few delicious coffees and taught myself how to roast. I sold my coffees to friends and family to help purchase more coffees to roast, but it was a hobby at this point more than a viable business.”
Six years after their dream of opening a café began, the couple saw a “for rent” sign outside a former tattoo studio on Middle Road near the Luzerne County Community College campus in Nanticoke. After crunching the numbers, Brian and Sarah knew they could make a run at it and the first Grateful Roast Coffee location opened in June of 2016.
When asked what makes Grateful Roast stand out from the competition, rather than beginning by mentioning their coffee and unique food items, Williams’s first thought was the local community.
“We stay mindful of our place in a community. We feel that we have a responsibility to give back to the community we serve in and we can use our coffee as a vehicle for change, so we do. We often host events aimed at raising funds or awareness for various local causes. In Hazleton, we already work with Brandon’s Forever Home by roasting Brandon’s Brew. When someone purchases a bag of Brandon’s Brew from the foundation, $5 is donated to Brandon’s Forever Home. On Halloween, we gave out free hot dogs and hot cocoa to families who came into our Nanticoke location before trick-or-treating and collected donations for the local VFW. We've also hosted events to raise funds for Ruth’s Place, a women’s shelter in Wilkes Barre.”
Additionally, Williams mentioned how the coffee is roasted in-house and that the menu items feature high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients. “We are the only place in Luzerne County that actually roasts our own coffee locally, in our own café. You can come into the cafe and actually see the coffee roaster and smell the beans roasting,” he said. “We place an emphasis on high-quality and locally-sourced whole foods. We use local artisans, bakers and farms to produce the foods that we offer. The more local foods we can offer, the better we feel about the business we're doing. It's very important to support local because we're all in this together.”
Community was also top of mind when the couple talked about selecting Hazleton as the location for the second Grateful Roast Coffee location. “We've been interested in growing the brand and have been investigating options as they've presented themselves,” Williams said. “However, this opportunity was kind of magical. The spirit of Grateful Roast Coffee seems to fit with the revitalization that Hazleton is experiencing, and sometimes the synchronicities and synergies just make something happen without too much outside pressure. This was one of those situations. We're also very excited to be working with our landlord (Jesse Gomez), who has been awesome.”
Williams added, “I love what Hazleton and the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress (DHAP) are doing. The downtown looks great and is only getting better. One night after visiting the space, before we signed the lease, we were driving down Broad Street heading to Interstate 81 and I noticed how all the trees were lit up with lights; not even just downtown, but all down the street. It's things like this that really show a city's pride. I am very proud to be a new business in this revitalizing city.”
Turning the thought of a second Grateful Roast Coffee location in Hazleton from an idea to a reality was a team effort involving the City of Hazleton, DHAP, CAN DO and other partner organizations supporting downtown. Jocelyn Sterenchock, CAN DO’s coordinator of entrepreneurial services, assisted Williams in navigating the licensing and permitting process leaning on the relationships developed with the City.
Sterenchock praised the collaborative effort that helped make opening the second Grateful Roast location in Hazleton a possibility. “I’d like to thank (City of Hazleton, especially Code Enforcement Supervisor) Charles Pedri, for all of their assistance throughout this process. Working to bring this business to Downtown Hazleton took a lot of teamwork and it could not have been done without the support of those partnerships we rely so heavily upon,” she said. “I’m passionate about having new and young businesses in Downtown Hazleton. I think Grateful Roast Coffee will be a compliment to the many long-established restaurants that are already in our community!”
Williams said Sterenchock’s assistance throughout the entire process had an integral role in launching the second location. “Jocelyn is amazing. She kept us informed throughout the entire process and spearheaded everything from start to acceptance. I can't say enough about how awesome she's been. Running a cafe is crazy enough, and trying to open a second is insane, but she made it happen and, for that, we are truly grateful.”
Both Brian and Sarah hope the Grateful Roast Coffee’s Hazleton location will continue the company’s tradition of providing a quality coffee experience to patrons, staff and local businesses.