Being a small business owner is a tough job! That’s why we feature a different small business in our Small Business Spotlight every month! This time we are pleased to feature Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart in Lithopolis.
Ask Amy and Joseph Contino about their coffee shop and it is clear that it’s not your run-of-the-mill place to buy coffee. The business and its owners have a colorful story and something special to offer. Das KaffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart has stood out as a colorful addition to the Lithopolis streetscape for ten years. The brick exterior with cheerful yellow accents invites customers in but it’s the European experience and German coffee that keeps them coming back.
Joseph is a charismatic storyteller who accepts responsibility for the vision that led to this venture.
The pair are veterans – he’s an Italian from Groveport and she is from generations of good German stock in Cincinnati. They met while serving in the US Air Force where she picked up the call sign Frau Burkhart, a fun twist on her maiden name and German heritage with a hat tip to Cloris Leachman’s character Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein.
The coffee shop is actually modeled off the German cafes that Joseph, an Air Force Pilot, discovered during his many trips to Germany. “We were never what you would call coffee snobs. We were utilitarian drinkers and really just drank coffee for the caffeine. That all changed my first time in Germany,” he said. “I was tired, I was exhausted and I just wanted a cup of coffee to give me some energy. One taste and I was hooked. It was the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.”
He discovered that coffee is less beverage and more a way of life in Germany where every restaurant, dance club, beer garden and café serves excellent coffees. Inspired and motivated, he began searching the country for the best of the best German brew while convincing a reluctant Amy that this was a good idea.
The rest, as they say, is history. Today, the coffee shop sits on the main drag through town, not far from central Ohio communities where consumers are looking for a different kind of coffee shop experience.
And it is different from other American coffee houses.
The laidback vibe here is offset by cool techno music, a reminder of the German club scene. Walls are adorned with artwork and subtle humorous nods to the country. “We have a different vibe and a different product on purpose. We don’t want to be like everyone else and we actually embrace the different. That’s what makes us who we are,” he said. “What we do here is organic and sincere.”
What really makes them who they are is the coffee, pastries and light sandwiches that keep a steady stream of customers coming in throughout the day. The menu is extensive but they are known for their Das KaffeeHaus German blend, a brew that is derived from a German recipe that dates back to 1632 in Aachen, Germany. They say the proprietary blend is a light roast by American standards and a much different experience than most US coffee drinkers have come to expect from a chain coffee shop.
They are also known for their Schwarzenegger Austrian Roast, Blitzkrieg French Roast and D’Allessandro Italian Espresso Roast. The menu includes some specialty teas, smoothies and hand dipped Velvet Ice Cream from nearby Utica, Ohio. Like in Germany, real ice cream is used in their Frappe’ called the Frostlatte and in a drink called an Eis Kaffee – A coffee/ice cream float where hot coffee is poured over your favorite ice cream and topped with whipped cream. The Eis Kaffee happens to be the most popular coffee drink in Germany.
Daily specials offer regulars the opportunity to try something different.
Amy said the coffee is the star of the show here but they also offer pastries that are handmade daily as well as some simple sandwiches. Pastries you may find in their case include cream puffs, turnovers, strudels and Bavarian pretzels, complete with their German and American names proudly displayed. She did admit that marrying German traditions and the American palette can be a challenge. “We tend to expect things to be sweet but pastries in Germany tend to be not at all sweet so we’ve had to make some adjustments,” she explained.
They do not claim to run an authentic German business in the heart of Ohio. Instead, they have taken the best of the German café concept and tried to make it a fun, delicious experience for a consumer who is looking for a bit of culture and something different with their coffee.
Listeners of 99.7 the Blitz Radio in Columbus know that they’re the official coffee of the Blitz and have likely heard Joseph read funny and sometimes edgy copy as Herr Joseph. They are also developing a beer garden that will be located behind the coffee shop and that they hope to have ready for Oktoberfest 2021. They are open to speaking with anyone interested in franchising and investment opportunities as well.
To get the full Das KauffeeHaus von Frau Burkhart experience, stop by 45 East Columbus Street in Lithopolis. Follow them on Facebook for the latest news or visit them online for hours, menu and to hear some of Herr Joseph’s radio spots.