By Laura Ann Tipps
Coffee is a family affair For Robert Cole, his wife Tracey and their daughter Kate.
Cole has been a part of the coffee world for almost 20 years. When his family lived in the Birmingham area, he used his passion to hold fundraisers for organizations such as churches, Boy Scouts and sports teams.
As a part of the Attalla community, Cole now has contributed to the city’s recent burst of development by opening Cornerstone Coffee at 320 5th Avenue Northwest.
“When the opportunity came about for us to open a coffee shop, we prayed for God to put the right people and places in our lives, and we think that God has us here for a reason,” said Cole.
Besides providing a Christian coffee shop environment, Cole believes that one of the reasons they are in Attalla is to provide fresh-roasted coffee to the Etowah County area. The empty burlap bags hanging on one wall of the shop attest to the fact that Cornerstone buys raw beans from all over the world to be roasted in-house.
“We are the only coffee roasters in the county,” he said.
Cornerstone, however, offers much more than just plain coffee. Espresso, specialty drinks, frappes, cold brews, smoothies, loose-leaf teas and chai can all be served hot, cold or iced. Drinks can be made vegan-friendly with soy, or even kid-friendly with no caffeine. None of the drinks contains high fructose corn syrup or genetically modified fruits.
Despite this wide variety of offerings, Cole said the coffee was the easy part. It was getting the store ready to open that he found challenging.
Victoria Cleveland, the shop’s general manager, agreed.
“We worked hard for about a month before we opened, trying to get everything looking nice and organized and training everyone.”
After only a month of being open, Cornerstone continues to add new things to its menu -and not just coffee.
“We plan to start offering a breakfast and light lunch menu, doing some fundraisers, and making labels so that businesses or individuals can give our coffee as Christmas gifts,” said Cole.
The shop has also become a gallery for local artists, and soon will function as a venue for local musicians. Later this month, Cole plans to begin featuring musical performances one or two days a week.
“Eventually, we hope to offer classes about coffee and cupping, because we really are here to educate people in the area about coffee,” said Tracey.
At 12 years old, Kate probably could teach these classes herself.
“She and Tracey were instrumental in finding the best products when we attended CoffeeFest in Chicago, and also in developing relationships with the vendors,” said Cole.
Many of these vendors are also from small, family-owned businesses. Cornerstone’s chai recipe was created by the mother of one of their vendors, creating a homey feel to both the drink and the store.
Also adding to the family atmosphere is the shop’s furniture. Everything but a few tables and a sofa came from the Cole family’s home or from a stash of family heirlooms.
One of the tables has a particularly special story. Cole’s aunt had protected his grandmother’s antique table by placing newspapers on top of it for years. When she passed away, the table fell to Cole – newspaper impressions and all.
“We just made the best of it. We knew a typesetter and were able to get a bunch of old papers, so the employees went through that and picked out the ones we liked,” said Cole.
It was an extensive arts and crafts project, but well worth it.
Cole said many great conversations have taken place over the table since it was repurposed, and that guests often become mesmerized while reading the articles that are now glued to it, including a piece dating all the way back to the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died.
From worldwide vendors to his grandmother’s table, Cole said Cornerstone’s strength lies in the family relationships upon which it was built.
“It’s coffee from other families, to our family, and then to yours.”