If you need a jolt of java to stay awake and finish required reading or if you just want to enjoy a doughnut while reading Stephen King's latest tale, the new Hilliard branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library will have you covered with some treats already familiar to residents.
The 63,000-square-foot, 2-story library, which is scheduled to open June 21 at 4500 Hickory Chase Way, will be one of the few branches in the system to feature a cafe, according to Ben Zenitsky, a spokesman for the library system.
That eatery, named Kerr’s Cafe, will come with a local perk: The owners of Coffee Connections of Hilliard, 4004 Main St., and the Lil' Donut Factory and the Coffee Mess, 4543 Scioto Darby Road, will run it.
Their joint venture will be called Public Perk and, rest assured to customers, they plan to continue to operate their original businesses, they said.
"Our pitch was that we were all local business owners and residents who are familiar to people (in Hilliard)," said Nate Grenier, who owns Coffee Connections with his wife, Sharon. "We all saw it as a great opportunity to become a part of the community in an ever deeper way."
The Coffee Mess will serve as the coffee vendor, Coffee Connections will sell pastries and the Lil' Donut Factory will provide doughnuts, according to Nate Grenier.
Coffee Connections will handle programming for activities at the cafe, he said.
Tim Hofmann, owner of the Coffee Mess, will be the operating manager of Public Perk.
Hofmann was the catalyst in creating the new partnership, reaching out to the Greniers and to Jordan and Bekah Smith, the owners of Lil' Donut Factory.
Hofmann said he and Nate Grenier brewed coffee together before each gained their own storefronts.
Hofmann also has experience with library coffee shops. He ran a coffee shop at a U.S. Naval Academy library in Annapolis, Maryland, before he moved to Hilliard with his family in 2014, he said.
Hofmann said he called the Columbus library even before he was aware a cafe was in the works to inquire about opening one.
"If there was going to be a proposal for one, I wanted in," he said.
The email for proposals "was widely distributed" but Hofmann did not know how many businesses had expressed interest or had been considered, he said.
Nate Grenier said the Friends of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, a nonprofit organization that advocates for the library system, also contacted him and other coffee vendors that participated last year in Columbus Coffee Fest.
The Public Perk partners learned in March they were selected but "had to keep it under wraps" until all the contracts were finalized, he said.
Smith said his involvement in the partnership is making good on a pledge he made when he opened his business in 2009.
"I said I would become a bigger part of our community and this is the next step," Smith said.
Looking ahead, Hofmann said the model of Public Perk operating as a vendor in a public venue such as a library might be considered in similar settings.
Meanwhile, Kerr’s Cafe’s name was selected because the library's local history and genealogy division researched Hilliard's Hickory Chase and found that the original land owner was John Kerr, an Irish immigrant who settled in Franklin County and was a surveyor, recorder and the second mayor of Columbus, taking office in 1818, Zenitsky said.
Construction on the $15.8 million Hilliard branch began last year at the 6.8-acre site at Hickory Chase, a mixed-use development that already includes several new apartment buildings on 86 acres in the vicinity of Leap and Davidson roads.
The building that became the library was intended to be the clubhouse of a luxury community for senior citizens called Hickory Chase that was being developed by Baltimore-based Erickson Communities until it filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
California-based Greenwich Investors Hickory Chase purchased the land a few years later and Hilliard, in turn, bought 6.8 acres for $6 million and gave it to the library.
The library system then purchased the nearly completed clubhouse for $800,000 and started converting and furnishing it last year, Zenitsky said.
Mayor Don Schonhardt previously called it a “prime example of how collaboration between public entities can create positive benefits for everyone.”
After the move to Hickory Chase is complete, the library system intends to sell the Cemetery Road property, Zenitsky said. The branch has been based there since 1996, when it moved from the southeast corner of Scioto Darby Road and Veterans Memorial Drive, a building occupied today by Sunrise Academy.