Kristin Kiser's family was visiting from out of town and the morning's conversation inevitably turned to coffee; the only problem was there was nowhere nearby to get a fix. It was in that moment that Ms. Kiser decided things needed to change in the Old West End.
"We thought, 'Wouldn't it be great to get coffee from somewhere?' That was sort of the beginning and the spark," she said.
Ms. Kiser is putting the finishing touches on Black Kite Coffee, 2499 Collingwood Blvd., and plans to open its doors in the next few weeks. Ms. Kiser is waiting on the installation of a grease trap and an inspection from the Lucas County Health Department. She hopes the shop will be the first of many businesses to breathe life into the area.
The Old West End, which features some of Toledo's oldest homes and diverse architecture, is practically devoid of businesses. One of the nearest coffee shops is in the Toledo Museum of Art. Other eateries are located on Adams Street, adjacent to the neighborhood. Black Kite Coffee will be in the building formerly occupied by Pumpernickels Deli.
Having a business like Black Kite Coffee in the heart of the Old West End, as opposed to nearby, is essential to rebuilding the neighborhood, said Dan Schmitt, a former president of the Old West End Association.
Neighborhoods like Georgetown in Washington and Lincoln Park in Chicago are examples of what can be accomplished when people reinvest in an area, Mr. Schmitt said.
Ms. Kiser said Black Kite Coffee is a labor of love. She and her husband have owned and operated software company Avatar LLC in Toledo since 1997, and the couple is fully aware of the city's business climate.
The growth of lofts, apartments, and restaurants downtown is promising, and the Old West End could benefit from similar development, Ms. Kiser said.
In addition to coffee, Black Kite Coffee will offer traditional dessert pies and empanadas, which are stuffed pastries. The menu will change every month.
Ms. Kiser plans to open the shop on weekdays at 6:30 a.m. and it will be open late, "as long as there are bodies there." It also will be open on weekends.
The shop's name comes from a Japanese animation, Ms. Kiser said.
"This is our first foray into the food service industry, and my biggest concern is waste and keeping waste as low as possible," she said. "We were talking about our menu and what we'd have -- the menu is going to be coffee and pies. You can take almost anything and put it in a pie dough."
The coffee shop could be a sign that Toledo's urban core is re-establishing itself, said Richey Piiparinen, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University who studies population shifts in the Midwest. Although Mr. Piiparinen hasn't conducted a formal study of Toledo, he said it could be following trends observed in Cleveland and other Rust Belt cities.
People -- especially young professionals and young people with families -- are moving back into the city's core. Once the core is full, they begin to spill over into the adjacent neighborhoods, which also have more room for families, he said.
"It's really a Rust Belt resurgence," he said.
Contact Kris Turner at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6103.