Thirty-thirty Coffee Co. brews success with expansion at Junction City

A great article covering Thirty-Thirty Coffee

Thirty-thirty Coffee Co. brews success with expansion at Junction City

By Thomas Bruch
Journal Star entertainment reporter

“In what seemed like an overnight occurrence, thirty-thirty Coffee Co. went from a plucky, upstart coffee and roasting shop to a Downtown institution.

Food Network personality Alton Brown ate grub all over Peoria when he visited last year, but he got a pour-over coffee from thirty-thirty. And he let his 2.9 million Twitter followersknow about it.

Success arrived almost immediately at the Downtown location after opening in November 2011. Co-owners Dan Williamson, Ty Paluska and Steven Elmore — all natives of the central Illinois area — were already contemplating a second location. At the time, the initial belief was a second thirty-thirty shop would operate in a place other than Peoria.

April 25, 2016

“We didn’t necessarily think we’d have a second location in Peoria,” Williamson said. “We didn’t know what the demand would be like. We were pleasantly surprised with the success of the (Downtown) one, really from day one. That caused us to think about other options.”

Junction City emerged as the most interested candidate. In a way, it mirrored the geography of the Downtown shop — within walking distance of quite a few businesses like Caterpillar and the hospitals, but on its own island. The Junction City locale also might appeal to a segment of Peoria consumers who do not live or work Downtown, and who wouldn’t have a chance to visit thirty-thirty beyond a few infrequent trips.

Every coffee shop wants to develop regulars.

The current space was not the first one discussed. Talks of a co-utilization with Sweet Cece’s were broached. But the space next to Cyd’s, formerly inhabited by Design Plus Granite, proved to be the right fit in size and feel.

When thirty-thirty North finally opened on July 10, 2015, it shared the same sheen of its Downtown counterpart, plus the same warm sensibilities from the barista staff. The outdoor patio — a feature exclusive to thirty-thirty North — found use throughout the day in the initial summer months.

The initial surge in customers subsided as the weather cooled in the fall, according to Williamson. Expansion was a calculated risk from the thirty-thirty owners, one that could backfire if the Junction City location didn’t click like the Downtown one did. But Williamson said thirty-thirty was committed for the long term and that a broader view needed to be taken in the face of a bad month or a even a bad quarter.

“It’s the ‘forest for the trees’ thing,” Williamson said.

Improvements have been steady since that point, Williamson reported, and thirty-thirty North has developed its own set of customers. A new wave of businesses have sprung up in Junction City on the heels of thirty-thirty’s opening, including a new Childers Eatery,Novu Sushi and Bushwhacker.

Williamson said he’s eager to experience a full spring and summer at Junction City. He has explored ways to get involved in the farmer’s market held there and has a few new offerings to debut. Among them are homemade sodas and the addition of a Nitro Cold Brew, a concept popularized at Stumptown in Portland, Ore., that owners at thirty-thirty have been itching to try out themselves.

As for the notion that demand in Peoria might not be there, Williamson was happy to figure out that wasn’t the case.

“They’ve really impressed us with their receptiveness and how much everyone really seems to dig us,” Williamson said.”

Thomas Bruch can be reached at 686-3262 or tbruch@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter@ThomasBruch.