Bleak House percolates with new coffee tastesWritten by Morgan Delp | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Bleak House Coffee began as a dream for Scott Ciolek. Literally.
“I had a dream that I was sitting in a coffee shop and I was reading ‘Bleak House’ by Charles Dickens,” said Ciolek, co-owner of the coffee shop in the Spitzer Building on Madison Avenue in Downtown Toledo. Ciolek works as an engineer and attorney in the building. “I told [the owner of the building] about my idea for a coffee shop that serves high-end coffee and she agreed that there was a market for it here in Toledo. So I talked to Stephanie Wandtke, who is my partner and master barista, and I told her what I had in mind.”
Wandtke said “Bleak House” fits the Spitzer Building perfectly.
“When Scott brought up ‘Bleak House,’ the name, I thought of how the book was about a multigenerational lawsuit and that the lawyers got rich at the end, so we thought that that was the most perfect name since it’s all lawyers in the building,” Wandtke said.
Ciolek said when Borders closed its Ann Arbor store a year and a half ago, he bought its coffee equipment to bring back to Toledo.
“It was sitting at my house for a while and I didn’t know what to do with it,” he said.
Ciolek said it took six months to create the environmentally savvy coffee shop.
“The tables were made from repurposed law office doors in the building,” Ciolek said. “Most everything in here is repurposed from other material, so it’s the greenest of all coffee shops. From the wood of the bar to the equipment we used, nothing is brand new. Our carbon footprint is very small.”
The eco-friendly nature of the coffee shop is not the only distinctive feature of Bleak House, Ciolek said.
“We only do things that we know we do well, and we’re only selling top, third-wave coffees such as Jamaican Blue Mountain and Intelligentsia, something you can’t find in other coffee shops,” Ciolek said.
“One of the other things that we’re going to be doing is, since we have no contracts with coffee providers, we are going to be bringing in different roasters and featuring them on a weekly basis,” Ciolek said. “Right now we plan on inviting Drake’s in Sylvania, which is the finest local roaster.”
Wandtke said being a part of Downtown Toledo is important to Bleak House, and was a big reason for the shop’s location at the Spitzer building.
“The Spitzer Building is [Toledo’s] first mall. My grandma used to talk about how she would go shopping here and there was a candy store that my aunt used to go to, so it felt homey,” Wandtke said. “The historic part of it made it a fantastic location. We want more people to come down and appreciate these buildings.”
The people who frequent Bleak House consist of an almost even split between Downtown businesspeople and young coffee aficionados, Ciolek said.
“There is not a lot of foot traffic in front of our building, but people come from all over town to try it,” Ciolek said. “I think that Toledo is ready for some nice things like Bleak House and so far the people of Toledo have really proved me right.”
Blair Moritz, who works at the Secor Building on Jefferson Avenue, is a Bleak House client who said she frequents the shop almost every day.
“The environment and the coffee is phenomenal. I get an almond milk latte and it’s so yummy,” Moritz said.
Ciolek said the excellent taste can be attributed to the shop’s “pour-over” method of making coffee.
“The method takes a little bit longer but the coffee’s temperature is consistent and it doesn’t burn,” Ciolek said. “Every cup is made when you order so it doesn’t sit around for hours.”
Ciolek said the pour-over method preserves the healthy ingredients in coffee.
“There is a lot of research coming out right now about the health benefits of coffee,” Ciolek said. “The health benefits are what I wanted to bring to Toledo.”
Future plans for Bleak House include monthly musical performances in the “arcade” or lobby area outside the shop and possibly another location situated in an older building, Ciolek said.
“I keep asking everyone what they want in the shop. I ask customers what kinds of desserts they like and what kinds of syrups they like and … a lot of those type of questions because those are the people that are helping us,” Wandtke said. “As long as we’re accommodating of them we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Visit bleakhousecoffee.com for information on upcoming events and hours of operation.