The drive into Chillicothe, Ohio, is indistinguishable from much of the Midwest. Flat cornfields and truck stops line Route 35, interspersed with the occasional hand-painted sign advertising farm fresh eggs or produce. The town itself is quaint, with faded facades advertising small businesses and the marquee of the 158-year-old Majestic Theater crossing over the major thoroughfare.
Rōst Coffee is located on West 2nd Street, tucked in next to Totem Supply Company, a handmade goods store, and Market No. 9, a grocer that focuses on locally sourced foods. From the street, Rōst is striking, a streak of white in a row of red brick buildings. The interior is aggressively minimalist without being pretentious—white and raw wood setting a clean backdrop for simple accents, including a large Ohio state flag hanging on one wall and a series of black and white photographs on the other.
Though Rōst began as a wholesale roasting company in Columbus, Ohio, owner Trent Fannin made the decision to open a cafe in Chillicothe—about an hour’s drive south—after negotiations with two different investors in Columbus fell through. When the space in Chillicothe became available, Fannin realized he could afford to move there while keeping the company wholly under his ownership. Chillicothe has never had a venue for specialty coffee before, but the community has responded incredibly well to Rōst’s simple menu, homespun feel, and unswerving dedication to quality.
Fannin designed the space himself, putting his experience as a carpenter to good use in building out a clean and efficient bar space. The centerpiece of the cafe is the original 2001 two-group La Marzocco Linea Classic, restored by Fannin earlier this year. Next to the espresso machine are two of Mazzer’s new “Lux D” grinders—Fannin explained that he wanted to ensure that the grinders were small enough that there was no barrier between the baristas and customers, and said that the little Mazzers “haven’t missed a beat” since the store opened in February of this year.
Rounding out Rōst’s core menu are FETCO-brewed drip coffee, pour-over options from Hario V60 drippers and a BUNN grinder, and a small selection of hand-blended teas from Dublin, Ohio’s Tehku Teas. Fannin also has put together a small menu of seasonally rotating signature drinks, including his take on a caramel latte—brown sugar and Kerrigold butter blended with Rōst’s seasonal espresso blend and steamed milk.
The coffees Fannin roasts are approachable enough to be enjoyed by customers new to the world of specialty coffee while also packed with enough complexity to satisfy connoisseurs. The majority of the coffee available in the cafe was imported through Bodhi Leaf Coffee Traders in Orange County, California with the notable exception of the Kenya Kifahari, which was imported by a Kenyan friend of Fannin’s who lives in Columbus and runs Kenya Roasters Coffee.
Fannin has found a number of ways to build relationships with the surrounding community. A small selection of rotating pastries are supplied by Small Folk Cafe in Chillicothe, and Rōst also serves traditional glazed doughnuts from a nearby Amish community on the weekends. Rōst uses grass-fed dairy from Pomeroy, Ohio’s Snowville Creamery. Though the cafe is only a couple months old, Fannin already has plans underway to host more community events in the space, including brewing classes and a meet and greet with Wilson Muinamia, the source behind the Kenya Kifahari. It is his hope that Chillicothe can become a destination in Ohio for specialty coffee enthusiasts.
In a specialty coffee world oversaturated with new and exciting brewing gizmos and state-of-the-art multi-roaster cafes, Rōst is a breath of fresh air. Fannin’s dedication to quality craftsmanship and community echoes through every section of the cafe and the wholesale roasting business. The Midwest coffee scene has grown exponentially over the past few years, and with companies like Rōst moving away from the major cities, it looks hopeful that even the most rural communities will be able to enjoy specialty coffee in the coming years.
Alex Evans is a freelance writer and coffee professional based in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is Alex Evans’ first feature for Sprudge.