Roosevelt Coffee Roasters, Bookstore Bringing New Life to Hilltop Building

The building at 2374 W. Broad St. has seen a lot of life. Since its construction in 1928, it has been a bank, a pet store and served as a storage place for an auction house. And now, the address can count among its ranks a coffee roastery and a second-hand bookshop.

Roosevelt Coffee Roasters, the roasting arm of downtown and Franklinton coffeehouses, The Roosevelt Coffeehouse, has moved its operations to the Hilltop building and will soon be joined by Kennedy Used Books, led by social entrepreneur John Rush.

Rush, who also owns 180 Demo, and Roosevelt founder and owner Kenny Sipes, who both ran social enterprises that value profit and social impact, knew each other’s work and often turned to the other for advice or encouragement.

Rush had first heard that there was a group of people interested in building this particular area of ​​Hilltop and became part of the investment group that purchased the building. He also knew that Roosevelt was roasting on borrowed time at his old establishment.

As of early 2020, the building at 567 W. Broad St. in which Roosevelt roasted was up for sale. Sipes says they didn’t know when and if the building would sell, and if it did, if they would be allowed to stay. At the end of last year, they got their answer. The building was sold and while the new owners were kind enough to give them time to figure out what was next, Roosevelt needed a new home.

As soon as Rush offered Roosevelt a glimpse of Hilltop space, Sipes knew they had found their new location. It’s only slightly larger than their old location, but “opening has been a game-changer for us,” says Sipes.

With a wide open space and high ceilings, Sipes says they were able to design a more functional layout for their roasting facility. They have also gained mezzanine office space and have room to expand, both in roasting capacity and finished workspace.

The view of the ground floor of the building from Roosevelt’s mezzanine office

While the goal would be to top him, Sipes says it’s good to have the continuity of knowing they have a good home for the next few years. And in a place that matches their brand.

“We love being in Franklinton because of what it could do for this area economically, so being in another part of town that’s trying to find its place is a positive thing for us,” Sipes says.

For Rush, the partnership is about the place, but also about the books.

When Grandview’s Acorn Bookstore closed in 2018, Rush bought out the inventory. For a time, the books found a temporary home in the cafe Rush opened with his son on the West Side, Third Way Cafe. As the demand for seating at the cafe (which does indeed serve Roosevelt Coffee) increased, the books returned to storage.

“I was looking for a space to pull the books out of storage and place them and have some sort of focus on creative literacy,” Rush explains.

Kennedy Used Books will be many things. Mirroring the work of its other social enterprises, there will be an element of back-to-school support tied in, such as finding a way to support the library system within the prison system through the shop. Additionally, they will seek to partner with the local library on other literacy programs.

The shop will also be a space where local authors can be celebrated and showcased; a place where people can have conversations; a place where people can sit and read or work for a while.

The library will occupy the facade of the building and a stretch along the east wall that leads to the basement. The basement will be refreshed, serving as part storage, part shop extension with fun graffiti on the walls, a few books and more space to relax. Roosevelt fills the rest of the first floor, creating a unique interaction between the two companies.

A view of the ground floor from the facade of the building

Since a good cup of coffee and a good book often go hand in hand, Rush says they are exploring options like Third Way Cafe offering free drip Roosevelt coffee to bookstore customers. Roosevelt does not currently brew onsite, but has developed the ability to do so in the future with the ability to host barista trainings, tastings and other events.

Rush is thrilled to coexist with a company like Roosevelt which, as he describes it, is not just about high quality coffee, but also about leveraging market demand for high quality coffee to support the major local and global social issues. Overall, he wants to bring more of this type of business to Hilltop and has been involved in conversations and initiatives to bring more economic vitality to the region.

“I would like to see development happen in the neighborhood that is people-centric, and so as the neighborhood changes…I want it to be intentionally people-centric in the neighborhood so that it doesn’t push people away , overlooks some people because of their background, their challenges, or their economic situation,” Rush says. “So how do we give companies that kind of compliment that vision?”

Roosevelt Roasters is operational in the space, while Kennedy Used Books is aiming for a late April opening.

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All photos by Susan Post

Work is underway to add decorative wire mesh to the windows and remove the boards to bring more natural light into the space
Sipes helped find the name of the bookstore. Not only did he find a photo of John F. Kennedy walking past the building, but the two companies’ presidential name game was a winner.
The vault from the building’s time as a bank remains – as do the bank vault doors inside
Roosevelt is roasting

Angela C. Hale