NJM Q&A: Stephen Bellamy, Owner of Boxwood Coffee

The company's new Westfield location is specifically designed for customers who want to explore the subtle flavors of the coffee.

Interior of the new Boxwood Coffee in Westfield. Photo courtesy of Boxwood Coffee.

Stephen and Erin Bellamy, owners of Summit’s Boxwood Coffee, recently opened a second location in Westfield—three times the size of what they had planned. It’s a happy accident, since the 4,000 square-foot space means not only an expansion of their business, but an expansion of the Boxwood concept itself, complete with in-house roasting, weekly cupping classes and an on-site Specialty Coffee Association training program. We caught up with Stephen Bellamy about what to expect from the new store.

Table Hopping: You and your wife Erin opened the original Boxwood in Summit in 2014. How did you end up in Westfield?

Stephen Bellamy: Westfield was a town we initially wanted to open our first store in. We just love it as a town—the community, the vibrancy. It’s one of those towns in suburban New Jersey that’s very chain-resistant and supportive of small, independent local businesses.

TH: You took over an old Panera location on Broad Street. Was the size a shock? A problem?

SB: Certainly we weren’t looking for something that big! But then it just sort of evolved into this idea with this space—what can we do? We can do a full kitchen, we can do a breakfast menu, we can do what we always dreamed of doing and bring the roasting facility into the store and roast coffee in front of customers. It’s very rare to see. So few places in the country have a roasting facility on site, in their coffee store. And we’re giving customers that experience, having our master roaster Hayden [Kaye] on site every day. His passion for coffee is unrivaled. Being around him is infectious—you’ll want to talk about coffee and flavor profiles all day.

TH: Speaking of, the Westfield location seems specifically set up for customer engagement.

SB: The store is designed to make sure people are encouraged to ask questions. No one’s hiding behind a wall or a machine. It’s transparent. The coffee, the roasting [behind glass]… All our brewing and mocktail bar are in front of customers. There’s a bar they can sit at and look at things being made. All the staff are trained to answer [questions].

Pour-over coffee. Photo courtesy of Boxwood Coffee

TH: What about special classes?

SB: Once a week we’ll do a public cupping session. Hayden will present two different coffees, maybe diametrically opposite in terms of geography, or different flavor profiles, or similar regions. We’ll cup them in the SCA [Specialty Coffee Association] standard way, and then we’ll invite customers to talk. Hayden will talk about how he roasted the coffees, flavors you’d expect to see, what’s typical for these regions, and we’ll compare and contrast. And there are no wrong answers! After the tasting, anyone who wishes to can do a walk through the roasting facility with Hayden.

TH: You’re also planning brewing classes?

SB: Our schedule’s not yet fixed for that—it might be weekly, it might be less frequent. But we’ll teach people about various brewing methods. There are so many ways to brew coffee.

TH: I hear you’ll even be offering customers a way to get certified by the Specialty Coffee Association?

SB: That’s the near-term goal, to offer SCA Barista Certifications on-site. The store was built with SCA guidelines in mind, even down the lighting! There are light levels to accurately assess the quality of the brew, cupping table designed to a certain height for tasting.

TH: It seems like you are all about bringing a next level kind of attention to coffee to the customer.

SB: Thinking about the way coffee has evolved—we’ve gone from first generation, diner-style coffee to second, specialty coffee, largely popularized by Starbucks, to third wave, which is where we sit right now. It’s an artisan way of roasting, exploring the subtle flavors of the coffee, like craft beer or wine.

Boxwood Coffee recently opened a second location at 143 Broad Street in Westfield. The original location is at 17 Beechwood Road in Summit. Contact the Westfield store for information about cuppings, brewing classes, and more; 908-228-5481

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