One day before Ohio Governor Mike DeWine shut down the state in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pour Cleveland founder Charlie Eisenstat made the tough decision to close Cleveland’s first multi-roaster pour-over coffee and espresso bar in the 5th Street Arcades on Euclid Avenue.
Since he opened his shop in 2013, Eisenstat has sourced coffee from all over the world and brought the beans to Cleveland for his customers to experience. But when COVID-19 hit, traffic to the shop began to thin and sales began to steadily decline as regular customers began working from home and downtown events were cancelled.
“I feel so bad for downtown,” he says. “I’ve lived downtown since I graduated from college. I’m hopeful it comes back quickly.”
Charlie Eisenstat of Pour ClevelandFor the health and safety of his family and staff, Eisenstat says he saw no other alternative. “We’ve been closed since March 15 or 16,” he says. “And it’s looking like we will not reopen next year because our lease is up at the end of the year.”
Eisenstat emphasizes that the aim is eventually to open a physical Pour shop once again, but the timing of when and where will depend on the course of the pandemic. “It’s hard for me to jump right back in,” he says. “It’s hard for me because I really miss the retail and serving people coffee.”
A few weeks after closing the doors, Eisenstat says he came to realize he needed to shift his focus from in-person service to something he had started at the end of 2019—a subscription based roast-to-order coffee program.
“At first we thought it would be a week or two weeks, or a month,” he recalls of the temporart shutdown. “Once it became clear this was going to be a while, we knew we had to pivot.”
Pour Cleveland has established itself as an international multi-roaster of coffee, with a cafe for in-person cuppings and consultations. Now, Eisenstat has shifted Pour’s focus to an online, roasted-to-order and ready-to-ship source for unique international coffees.
“We bring in the best roasters in the world—like Norwegian Tim Wendelboe, Berlin’s Five Elephant, Sweden’s Koppi, Danish Coffee Collective, and Danish La Cabra—they are really accomplished roasters,” Eisenstat explains. “Instead of bringing in one or two coffees at a time, we’re basically opening up our site to their entire menu of coffees.”
Eisenstat says these companies host some of the most experienced coffee roasters who know how to deliver phenomenal flavor.
“These roasters are established and work with some of the same producers year after year— [producers who] have better farming practices, harvesting, and processing,” he says. “U.S. roasters are generally more focused on development and sweetness in their roasts. Foreign roasters focus on acidity, sweetness, and the balance between the two.”
For instance, Eisenstat likens different coffee-producing regions to different flavors—Guatemala with chocolate and apple; Honduras with chocolate and red berries; and Africa with citrus, floral, and juicy flavors.
Pour ClevelandPour will now carry about 80 coffees and be able to buy coffee in large quantities. “It’s a new concept and a unique way to buy coffee from overseas,” he says. “For us, buying coffee in bulk makes it easy for us to reduce the shipping costs. It really puts these roasters at a much more competitive price point with the domestic roasters.”
The coffees cost between $15 and $20 for a 250-gram bag/box, (some special, limited roasts are more), or customers can buy three- or four-bag bundles or one-kilogram bags for a 10% discount. Shipping is a $5 flat rate per order, or spend $50 and get free shipping.
Pour Cleveland offers monthly subscription packages, single purchases, and Pour merchandise, as well as a variety of holiday offerings—all available online.
Eisenstat says bringing the flavors from these international roasters to Cleveland is a new experience on all fronts. “It’s a much different approach than running a coffee shop,” he admits. “But it’s a different way of buying coffee as a consumer, too.”