Jonathan Starr and Jared Williamson look to elevate the coffee experience at their store.

In what might seem like a crowded retail coffee market, Jonathan Starr just shrugs: True artisans know where to turn for quality.

And it doesn't hurt that Columbus is jonesing for java.

"The coffee culture in Columbus is blowing up, which is good," he said.

Starr and partner Jared Williamson soon will open Mission Coffee Co. in the Short North. The business is dedicated to serving the beverage as much as educating people about it.

Think coffee-tastings, different brewing techniques and small-batch roasts.

"A lot of people do coffee," Starr said. "Our focus is on the coffee itself."

They've reconstituted the interior of the former 1,400-square-foot photography and videography studio at 11 Price Ave. and given it a modern, industrial look.

A mid-March opening is planned.

The differences between Mission and other coffee houses are many, they said. Indeed, there will be a standard drip option for the grab-and-go crowd. But Mission will be doing single-origin espresso brewed in a La Marzocco machine, handcrafted in Florence and vaunted by barristas all over the world.

"When you put coffee in an espresso machine, it's like putting it under a magnifying glass," Starr said. A full range of espresso drinks - cappuccino, latte, macchiato and such - will be offered. Food service will be limited to pastries but they will be selected to best match the coffee, Starr said.

The place will offer several brewing techniques - siphon and pour-over methods, for example - that produce different results with the same bean, Starr said.

Beans are roasted in small batches at a Cincinnati facility, with the hopes of moving the roaster to the Columbus store within the year.

Both Starr and Williamson said they're purists and want customers to try the coffee unadulterated by cream or sugar, although those two options will be available.

"We're just trying to experience coffee in its natural state," Starr said.

Williamson added that it's designed to be a fun and open, not stuffy and serious, environment.

The two men said their love of the bean dates back more than a decade. Starr, 27, was a graphic artist in Nashville when he immersed himself in the coffee scene. Likewise, Williamson was in college when the caffeine bug hit and has been fine-tuning his craft ever since. The two met through a mutual friend in the business.

Williamson, 30, said it might sound like an odd evolution for two people in creative services to jump into the coffee businesses, but that had been their plan all along.

"It has been a dream for a long time," he said. "It was a sharp turn, but it didn't come from out of nowhere."

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In what could be a first for Columbus, a restaurant specializing in Malaysian and Singaporean cuisines is opening soon in the Worthington area.

Merlion Noodle and Rice is planning a mid-March opening at 5320 N. High St. It will seat 34 in 1,800 square feet of space.

Owner Ricky Chun, who has 30 years of cooking experience, said the menu will include such authentic dishes as bak kut teh, a soup with pork ribs, and Hainan chicken, a rice dish. Some Chinese dishes also will be featured on the menu. Entrees will run in the $7.50 to $9.50 range.

The plan is to be open for lunch and dinner hours daily.