Luck Bros’ Keep Grandview Heights Caffeinated with Quality Coffee
Andy Luck knows a thing or two about coffee. He’s been serving high quality brands at the Luck Bros’ Coffee House in Grandview Heights since 2006 and has a passion for keeping on top of the latest trends in the industry. Andy will be one of the experts on tap at the North Market Coffee Roast, which takes place this Saturday, March 31st, and we hit him up for a Q&A session to find out more about his business and his coffee preferences:
Q: Can you tell us a bit about when Luck Bros’ first opened?
A: My brother Ed and I opened in 2006. Our last names are Luck but we named the shop Luck Bros’ after our Grandfather and his brother who were in business together in Akron for 30 years. After a couple of years Ed earned his graduate degree, got married, had a baby and left the business to get a real job.
Q: How did you settle upon your location in Grandview Heights?
A: It was difficult for us to find a location. Developers want an established business or a franchise but the Wagenbrenner Company took a chance on us in a funny little strip mall across the street from a ball park in Grandview. It reminded Ed and I of our Uncle Leonard’s shop in Firestone. But the location has been wonderful to us. Most of our customers live or work right around the shop and want us to succeed. We opened during possibly the worst economic times we have lived in, but people came in and bought something every day. We were taken in like family.
Q: Can you tell us a bit about the sourcing of your coffee beans or coffee products?
A: Our coffee sourcing has always been evolving. In 2006 and 2007 we purchased roasted coffee several times a week from several local roasters. Buying local in small batches for freshness was our thing. We would sample coffees from local roasters and pick the ones we liked best thereby offering what we liked best from each. In 2008 and 2009 we saw that Klatch Coffee in Los Angeles was named roaster of the year in Roast Magazine. The article got my attention and I ordered their espresso blend which won Best Espresso at the World Barista Championship in Tokyo 2007. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I needed to try more, so I began ordering coffee from every noteworthy Third Wave coffee roaster in the country. PTs, Gimme! Coffee, Caffe Pronto, Counter Culture, Stumptown, Barrington, Intelligencia, Madcap, Batdorf & Bronson, Victrola, Caffe Vivace, and the list goes on and on. For several years we never had the same espresso for more than a week. Along with espresso I started ordering some high-end estate coffees from the same roasters and set up a brew bar to offer them hand brewed to order.
In 2009 and 2010 I fell in love with an espresso out of Denver and lost interest in the chase. Strawberries up front, velvet and butter on the tongue, creamy milk chocolate on the finish. I found that I also favored coffees from Counter Culture for my brew bar. In 2011 I caught the roasting bug from mentor John Gant who spent some time in Columbus sharing his roasting knowledge. John holds an MBA and PhD, and has been a small batch artisan roaster for sixty years. I also met local roasters Michael and Sam Habte of Upper Cup in Old Towne East and we began a toll roasting relationship. My current sourcing objectives are to find unique and amazing coffees which are traceable, sustainable, and fair. While I appreciate the demand for Certified Organic and Fair Trade coffees and have purchased them for roasting, they often come up short of one or several of my requirements.
Q: Where do you source your other products from?
A: We offer Snowville Milk for our drinks. It really makes a difference in our traditional latte and cappuccino and we use it in our breakfast bake. We are very proud of our tea offerings. Compared to a tea house, our offerings are sparse, but because of the limited number of teas we have been able to sample each tea from many importers. We currently use five importers for about a dozen teas.
Q: Have you done anything inventive over the years to help market Luck Bros?
A: We did some advertising and hung coupons on doors in the neighborhood when we first opened. My current focus is to generate customer loyalty and positive word of mouth providing the best possible experience in customer service and consistent quality drinks. My strategy for this is to hire likable people and provide exceptional barista training.
Q: What all goes into that barista training program?
A: We provide them with videos and a manual. I call the shots on how drinks are made but my baristas train each other in a kind of mentorship program. The recent graduates reinforce what they have learned by teaching the newbies, and the old-hat baristas refresh their knowledge by doing the same. I like to introduce equipment and go through techniques once or twice and then let the mentors take over. Repetition is often required to develop muscle memory for being ‘on bar’. We also meet as a group every month or so to review progress and eat pizza. Espresso is from Italy and so is pizza. It seems to work for us, so it doesn’t have to make sense.
Q: What does your business do to help educate customers?
A: I prefer not to push information or opinions onto my customers. When people have questions I chat them up all day but I don’t think everyone that walks in the door wants to be educated or re-educated or re-socialized. I am certainly not trying to convert people to my way of thinking about coffee or anything else. I believe that some people want Tim Hortons and they are happy and that is okay. I don’t need to do what Tim Hortons does because there already is a Tim Hortons doing that. I have found a big enough audience that likes what I am doing so I can keep doing it and that makes me and my customers are happy.
More information can be found online at www.luckbroscoffeehouse.com.
Photos courtesy of Lily Glass Photography.