Dallas-based Ascension Coffee is on a rocket-like trajectory this year as it opens or reopens Texas-sized retail locations, expands its roasting and culinary operations, and follows a new leadership team.
One of the biggest changes is last month’s reopening of Ascension’s flagship retail shop in the Design District following a three-month hiatus for remodeling.
The reopening comes nearly a decade after Ascension Coffee Founder Russell Hayward first opened the doors to Ascension, which has attempted to elevate coffee experiences beyond standard chain coffee fare.
Last year, Hayward left to pursue opportunities in the healthcare field, though he still keeps in close contact with new president and CEO Bill Schaffler, who joined the company in 2019.
In April of this year, Schaffler and company brought on board Jessica Keenan, formerly of Whole Foods’ Colorado-based subsidiary Allegro Coffee Company, as managing director of the roastery and green coffee sourcing. Alex Jacob, a roaster who honed the craft under Hayward in recent years, is now Ascension’s head roaster.
Jacob has taken over the operation of “Dexter,” a brand new 35-kilo Diedrich CR-35 roaster that the company has installed alongside its original Diedrich IR-12.
The coffee pros are also helping to expand the company’s Cup of Excellence competition-winning coffee program, showcasing COE-winning coffees while also nodding to Hayward’s years of dedication as a judge in COE competitions.
“We were familiar with what [Hayward] was doing, judging coffees from around the world,” Schaffler recently told Daily Coffee News. “Now you can walk into our cafes, all of them, we have three or four pourovers available, and one of them is going to be a Cup of Excellence award-winning coffee. They turned out to be incredibly successful offerings. People love the story behind them. We tell them about the quality, how they’ve been judged and what their score is. We educate our guests as to what it is and why it’s a special bean.”
Additional info about the competition and Ascension’s current COE offerings are posted in a dedicated section of the company’s website. Menus explicitly list a single cup of a Cup of Excellence coffee as available at market rate at each of Ascension’s seven current retail locations.
Notable additions to that cafe lineup are the company’s first shop in Fort Worth, which opened last November, and a 4,500-square-foot private location that opened this past summer within the Aimbridge Hospitality headquarters in Plano.
Meanwhile, after a three-month closure, the Design District flagship cafe reopened in late August. The shop now boasts approximately 1,000 more square feet, additional table and couch seating, and an expanded kitchen that now comes under the control of culinary director Jason Connelly.
In addition to bowls, toasts and pastries baked on site, are egg dishes, brunch entrees and later-day fare such as a wagyu beef pastrami hash and craft sandwiches flesh out the menu. Wine and cocktails extend the shop’s appeal into the evening hours, when wooden basket pendant lights provide a welcome glow.
“We want people to feel like they’re getting an elevated experience [compared] to what they’re used to when they go into a coffee shop,” said Schaffler. “That’s reflected through the quality of the coffee, the food, and now the ambience.”
Two more Ascension coffee locations — including a 2,500-square-foot shop inside the former chapel of the White Rock Community Church in East Dallas, and another 2,500-square-foot shop in Far North Dallas — are expected to open this spring.