Entering the Cleveland Coffee Scene
An exclusive interview with Emilie Stack.
Written by Kayla Pocos
Emilie Stack outside of her new coffee shop in Avon Lake.
Emilie Stack, the 19-year-old powerhouse and Avon Lake graduate, is making her mark in the Cleveland coffee scene by opening up her very own coffee shop, Emilie’s Coffee House & Wine Bar, after Thanksgiving. This interview is special for me because I’m a friend and old coworker of Miss Stack. She’s almost two years younger than me and I look up to her. Her character speaks for her; she’s hardworking, determined, respectful and kind. These qualities are reflected in the warm and inviting space she and her family are creating in Avon Lake.
The Stacks began renovating an old bank on the corner of Walker and Avon Belden Road. “Something made her make the call that day, and the rest is history.” as Emilie will mention later in the interview the events that lead to this dream becoming reality. This endeavor wouldn't have been possible without the support of her community. For example, they will be having local woodworker Al Hobar add to the shop's unique ambiance by hand-crafting their bar and table tops. Additionally, Emilie's coffee is sourced from local roasters like Chris Allen, a Cleveland musician and her coffee mentor.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Kayla: Today, we have the privilege of chatting with Emilie and her mother and co-owner, Erin Stack, about their exciting journey into the world of coffee and community-building. Thank you for joining us.
Emilie: Thank you for having us, Kayla.
Kayla: Now, like many of us, Emilie went to school during COVID times; unlike many of us, Emilie was busy building her company. Taking advantage of those online, asynchronous courses, she picked up shifts at her family’s pizza shop and local coffee shops, at one point working three jobs at once, while mostly keeping up with her schoolwork. Now all that hard work is paying off. It’s almost opening day, how do you feel?
Emilie: Right now, I'm feeling a mix of nerves and excitement. The opening date is rapidly approaching, and there's still a lot on the to-do list. However, the thought of opening up and seeing familiar faces with smiles of excitement gives me a boost of confidence. I genuinely can't wait to serve our community. My excitement is what keeps me going. I envision my future and the possibility of my future family carrying on this dream. Perhaps my kids will be a part of it someday! Every day, we're getting closer to the finish line, and watching different pieces come together keeps me eagerly looking forward to what the next day or week will bring.
Kayla: You've had some incredible mentors, including Chris Allen, who serves as your coffee mentor. How did Chris and your experience working at Ready Set Coffee and Mojo's Coffee prepare you for this venture?
Emilie: My journey in the coffee world has been enriched by incredible mentors like Chris Allen, who has taught me so much about the coffee bean, like how to pick the right tasting notes. Last week, he even created an exclusive house blend just for me. The team at Ready Set Coffee, where I used to work, has been amazing. Everyone, from the owners to my co-workers, has been an absolute dream. Not sure I would be where I am today without them! Molly Allen, Chris’s sister and my boss at Ready Set, is the one who took me under her wing from day one. The amount Molly has taught me, the way she has encouraged me, and the love and support she offered is unmatched.
Sev, who serves as the right-hand to their coffee shop team is about as sweet as they come. She is just a few years older than me and was so kind to me from the first day I stepped foot into Ready Set. She taught me the art of coffee making and how to make drinks fun while still letting the coffee be the star of the show. Moreover, I loved having the opportunity to learn from two different industry leaders. Mojo’s has been in business for almost 20 years while Ready Set, just two years old, has quickly become a favorite coffee roaster among Clevelanders. I learned how to order products, how to make latte art, how to serve customers, how to properly clean machines and the million things in between. Both businesses offered me a variety of different insights into the business and communities they serve.
Kayla: Speaking of mentors, your mom and dad have stood by your side through every step of the way. How does that feel?
Emilie: I really want to express my gratitude to my parents. I've come to realize how much work truly goes into opening a business, and my dad has been a rock in handling the build-out of the shop. He's gone above and beyond, overseeing various aspects of the renovation. He has handled every single thing in regards to the build-out of the shop. He has also rolled up his sleeves and spent countless hours doing demo, ripping up carpet, hanging FRP, overseeing the HVAC, plumbing and electric, meeting with the architect and city employees and so much more. He’s done this all while running his own company, Stack Heating and Cooling.
My mom, on the other hand, has been the creative force behind the business. She's responsible for everything from photography, brand development, social media management, and marketing to website construction, interior design of our retail space and a host of other things. What's truly remarkable is that she's juggling all of these responsibilities while she’s also simultaneously running her own business and contributing to some of the most significant events in Cleveland.
Emilie and Erin Stack outside their shop; the future drive-thru window on the far-right.
Erin Stack, Emilie’s mom and co-owner of Emilie’s Coffee House and Wine Bar, has proven to be a leader in community growth and outreach, and has been instrumental in fostering a thriving community. She's known for her involvement in exciting initiatives like the always enjoyable Summer Market in Lorain and her contributions to projects like Blessing House, a safe haven for children during family crises. Alongside her commitment to community service, Erin also operates Coastal Cleveland, a classic Cleveland and Lake Erie apparel company. We discussed third spaces within communities, and why we need them, especially here in Cleveland.
“Cleveland’s coastline is prime real estate, and no one is taking advantage of the beach town opportunities we have. We need more community areas within biking distance from the beaches.” -Erin Stack
Erin and Emilie Stack talking about future design plans for their shop.
Kayla: Tell us about what went on behind the decision to transform this old bank on the corner of Walker and Avon Belden into your coffee shop?
Emilie: I’ve wanted to open a coffee shop for several years now and although it was never supposed to happen quite this soon, for some reason my mother was inclined to inquire about the rent at a corner space in the heart of Avon Lake. Every day she would pass this location which sat empty for six years and see the sign on the side of this massive building that said FOR LEASE. Something made her make the call that day, and the rest is history.
Erin: Our neighbors no longer want to drive 15 to 30 minutes to find a good cup of coffee or a warm and welcoming space to settle in. They want to walk, bike or take a short drive to a wonderful, community minded, warm and cozy space. One that serves good food, has a clean environment and one that just makes you feel good. They’ll also find that customer service is first and foremost at Emilie’s. No kiosks or QR codes, just the kindest team of people that customers will quickly get to know. We want every person to think of Emilie’s as their home away from home.
Kayla: Both of you hold Cleveland so close to your heart. Any particular reason why?
Emilie: It’s beautiful and our family is here. Cleveland is all we know and we love it here. Both my mom and dad have family that live in the Cleveland suburbs and out of 13 aunts and uncles (plus their families), only 2 have moved out of Cleveland. All of my grandparents are within a 15 minute drive. Cleveland offers so much. From an incredible dining scene to our picturesque Metroparks and our Great Lake Erie, there is so much to do here. On top of this, family means everything to us.
Kayla: A lot of midwesterners, including myself, couldn’t agree more. Stack ladies, it's been amazing getting to talk with the two of you today. Emilie, I’m so proud of you and I can’t wait to see what the both of you do with this incredible space. Best of luck with your opening!
Emilie: Thank you, Kayla. We're excited to become a part of the Cleveland coffee scene and see you all this winter!
Overall, checking everything out and talking to Emilie and Erin Stack, you can just tell this place is going to be great. They care about every little detail, and are approaching everything with their customers and workers first in mind. I’m excited to see the love blossom within this space. Having such passionate natives opening up a third space to the community is amazing news, especially to those in the West Side suburbs. Hailing from Avon myself, I can attest, there are no cool coffee shops to go to. You want Starbucks or Dunkin for the millionth time? We got you covered, with a Dunkin Donuts at literally every highway exit in Avon. Bay Village’s Mojo’s Coffee is one of the only major local coffee shops, unless you make the trek towards Lakewood and Ohio City.
We live on a breath-taking coastline, we should have way more spaces for those from all over to come and enjoy the beauty of our area. Cleveland is beautiful and fun to explore, and it’s amazing people like the Stacks that want to prove that point. Check out the suburbs and what they have to offer, hop on the RTA and see what you can find, and as always — shop local whenever you can!
Below is a map featuring some of the best locally-owned coffee shops in the greater Cleveland area for your next cup of joe. Chosen are the most popular destinations in those cities, most being clustered into one area. All found mostly in walkable,shopping-centric locations within a15-minute drive to the beach.