The temporary retail pop-up by Parable Coffee inside plant-based Columbus, Ohio restaurant Comune reached a storybook ending earlier this Spring as the POC-owned multiroaster coffee company opened a brick-and-mortar cafe of its own.
The new chapter for the company started earlier this month in a 2,800-square-foot space in downtown Columbus with modern chandeliers, exposed brick walls, a curvy concrete bar and other interior elements left over from previous tenants. Parable added natural wood surfaces and an abundance of leafy potted plants.
In this space, workers engage with customers on a gratuity-free basis, and living wages and benefits are made possible through the pricing structure.
The menu at Parable suggests a cup of filter coffee starts at $5, and specialty drinks such as a guava panela latte land from $7-9 — prices that build in the would-be gratuities that might otherwise be dictated by chance.
“As the employer, as a business owner, we should be taking that risk and paying our employees a fair wage, not leaving it up to a consumer who doesn’t know everything that goes into creating that beverage,” Parable Coffee Co-Founder Ben Willis told DCN. “I could send all of my employees out there, cut their pay in half and then say, ‘I’m going to let all these people who don’t know anything about the things that we do decide what you’re going to get paid,’ and it might be really inconsistent from season to season, from shift to shift.”
Physical accessibility, both in seating areas and workspaces, was another priority in the new cafe design.
“Although it was convenient to start as a pop-up, one of the things that we didn’t really love about operating in someone else’s space is really thinking about accessibility, in terms of space,” said Willis. “We have a lot of different body types. A lot of new age cafes, a lot of new modern things, don’t really take into account all the different kinds of body sizes and making space comfortable for everyone to move within.”
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Products prepared on a La Marzocco Linea EE espresso machine, Mahlkönig grinders, Fetco batch brewer and Fellow manual pourover equipment include classic espresso and drip coffee drinks, as well as seasonal drinks incorporating ingredients like sesame miso caramel sauce, orange blossom and cardamom syrup, coconut cream-based salted vanilla cold foam, and more. In the works for later this Summer is a purple and green-colored Southeast Asian take on Thai Iced Tea featuring ube and pandan.
Founded as a multiroaster pop-up in October 2020, Parable continues to seek out high-quality coffees from throughout the country, buying from roasters including Deeper Roots Coffee of Cincinnati, Brandywine Coffee of Delaware, Onyx Coffee Lab of Arkansas, Black & White Coffee of North Carolina, and Sey Coffee from Brooklyn, New York.
Co-owners Willis and Jeffrey Clark are also multi-professionals, as it were, the former being a fine art and portrait photographer the latter a professional dancer and dance instructor.
In order to guarantee access to the multiplicity of people that come through Parable’s doors, the shop also welcomes guests to pay whatever they can afford, including nothing, if need be.
“People have been giving away drinks and alcohol and shots and stuff since the beginning of bars,” said Willis. “We’re just the very first people to let you know that we’re willing to do it, and not on the sly.”
Willis hopes the shop will prove to be a welcoming space for the entire community, including staff and patrons.
“If you feel like you need it for free today, you just have to have a conversation with us,” said Willis “We’re here to build a community, and that requires many conversations. Sometimes they’re harder than others, and generally the hard ones are when you feel like you’re alone, and feel like you can’t ask for help. And that’s not how we want people to feel when they’re in our space.”