The Mass Ave. district in Indianapolis has been booming in recent years with heavy investment from the city, a wave of tech companies, restaurants, bars and a healthy population of young people with some money in their pockets. That said, the five-block district just northeast of the city center is largely bereft of good coffee.
Chris Kilander of Indy’s Kaffeine Coffee Co. is hoping to change that. The company has just signed a lease for a coffee bar in the atrium of the Athenaeum Theater in the heart of Mass Ave. The bar concept is part of a currently $1.3 to $1.5 million city-led investment for the theater that will see a complete revitalization of the sprawling atrium space.
“Indianapolis has been a little slow to take to third wave coffee,” says Kilander, who for the past six years has been running a Kaffeine Coffee truck with his wife Amanda at events and markets throughout the city. “There are a lot of young people I’m working with on this, and they’re really excited about where we’re going. Right now in Indianapolis, there is not much culture based on people getting together and having fun for coffee.”
Kilander had been considering a brick-and-mortar location for Kaffeine for some time but says, “People have been buying up property in Indianapolis like nobody’s business. We were looking for something like a Barista Parlor (Nashville) space, but that just wasn’t happening.”
What did happen was the Athenaeum Theater Foundation approached Kaffeine. At an initial meeting, Kilander wooed the foundation reps with Chemex, French press and other pourovers, saying most people in the room hadn’t ever witnessed coffee making and tasting in this way.
There is plenty of buildout yet to take place, including the Foundation’s role in revitalizing the atrium, which was last given fresh paint in 1988 when it was a set for the movie “Eight Men Out.” But when the shop does open, Kilander says it will carry a full espresso menu, as well as a daily selection of four or five coffees from various roasters throughout the country. Like the Kaffeine truck, the shop will also have coffees and other specialty drinks influenced by other countries’ coffee rituals, including Turkish coffee, Mokka pot brews and hand-mixed spiced chais. Kilander says he’s also working on a cold brew that will be “very exciting for Indianapolis.”
“We’re going to be doing a lot of education with people coming into the shop,” Kilander says. “If there’s one thing we want to happen, it’s people walking out of the shop and going, ‘Wow, that was an amazing experience.’ ”
The Kaffeine mobile truck will remain up and running during the buildout and shop opening, giving Kaffeine two prominent retail fronts. “This could lead to another shop down the road,” says Kilander, “but for now, we’re just taking it one step at a time.”