New local business opens in Acorn Alley


Evan Bailey, a Kent resident of 28 years, assists a customer on the opening day of his business – Tree City, on Monday, January 16th. Tree City is a cafe / bakery and is down behind Acorn Alley in downtown Kent. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Meghan Bogardus

Tree City Coffee & Pastry, the newest addition to the developments of Acorn Alley II, opened its doors to the community at 5:30 a.m. Monday, and by lunchtime it was already a hub of social activity.

“It’s always very exciting to have a new local business,” said Chelsea Lamb, a Kent resident who came out to try some coffee with friends.

Mark Brewer, another resident, agreed, saying it was nice to have another new option.

“I think it is a great place,” he said.

“It’ll be interesting to see patterns after a week,” said co-owner Evan Bailey, who is also an assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at Kent State.

Work on the shop has been noticeable over the last few months. For co-owners Bailey, Mike Beder and Brian Bower, it has been a project years in the making.

While Beder, owner of Water Street Tavern and Bower, operator of Cajun Dave’s, have experience in running a restaurant, they had little knowledge of how to run a coffee shop.

Research brought them to New York City twice, where they took to the streets to look at a variety of coffee houses and bakeries.

“We started on the Upper Westside with this Google map and got all the way down to the financial district over the course of an 18 hour day,” Beder said.

In addition to studying the ways of New York businesses, Bailey said they also met with a lot of local roasters to determine what kind of coffee they wanted to serve.

Tree City is partnering with Bent Tree Roasters in Kent and Solstice Coffee and Tea Service in Cleveland. Bailey said it was important for them to partner with local businesses, but also with businesses that worked with fair- and direct- trade coffees.

Bailey said Tree City was about keeping it local, down to the design of the shop itself. The co-owners worked with architecture professors at Kent State to design the coffee house, and they worked with all local materials, including reclaimed wood.

Bailey said he sees Tree City as a great place for students and community members to get together and socialize.

“I’m trying to create a true community coffee house experience,” Bailey said. “It’s a people business first and a coffee business closely second.”

During the various test runs they did in past weeks, Bailey recalled prominent community figures like the mayor, members of the Kent State Board of Trustees and local bank officials coming together.

“It really embodies a community spirit,” he said.

Bailey said the owners took to heart what community members would want from a coffee shop, particularly students. Through working with an audience analysis class at Kent State, Bailey discovered one thing students would like in a coffee house were more power outlets. Tree City has outlets every four feet, so each table has two sets of plugs.

Sydney Jordan, a graduate information archives and knowledge management student, and Kailei Babcock, senior nursing major, were already using Tree City to study. They said the number of electrical outlets was one of the first things they noticed.

“It’s definitely going to be a great place to study,” Babcock said.

Tree City’s drive-thru service also sets it apart from other coffee houses.

“That’s something for students on the go, mothers with children in the car, commuters and when it’s inclement weather,” Bailey said. “That was something they saw a big need for.”

In the coming weeks, Tree City will be hosting a number of social events, including a wine tasting.

Tree City Coffee & Pastry is open from 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. During finals week at Kent State, Bailey plans to increase the shop’s hours even more.

Contact Meghan Bogardus at [email protected].