After teaching and running her own baked goods company, a Thornville woman and her husband soon will open a new coffee house in Olde Pickerington Village.
In addition to teaching baking and pastry arts for 10 years at Watkins Memorial High School, Crystal Alward has made custom wedding and specialty cakes, as well as cake pops and other desserts, for a dozen years at her Reynoldsburg-based company, Cakes Creatively by Crystal.
Through the cake business Alward spent countless hours in coffee shops, partnering with some and meeting with clients.
So, it wasn't a stretch when Alward, who said she gained plenty of insight into the innerworkings of coffee shops, decided to open one of her own with her husband, Dan.
They chose Pickerington, a community they see as bustling with growth and where they've spent much of their recreational time since kids growing up in Pataskala, for their location.
Porter's Coffee House and Bakery, 194 W. Church St. in Olde Pickerington Village, is tentatively slated to open in mid-February. The Alwards said they plan to operate the business seven days a week, most likely from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., but those hours might change.
"I'm always in coffee shops," Alward said. "Whenever I would meet with clients, I was always in coffee shops.
"This was a way for us to combine, take the cakes further and do something else, too."
Porter's will feature coffees roasted by Heath-based One Line Coffee, which roasts non-blended, fair-trade beans grown by single farms and small cooperatives throughout the world.
One Line also is certified to produce organic coffee by the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association.
"We've been working with them for almost a year and we really feel honored they chose us," said Mark Forman, a One Line Coffee general partner. "They're some of the best people we've worked with in terms of their passion and their dedication to doing things right."
In addition to having three different coffees brewing each day, Porter's will feature tea and slices of Alward's cakes and specialty desserts, as well as sandwiches and fresh-fruit smoothies. They'll also sell coffee by the pound.
Alward said the business will be environmentally-minded, to the extent she was still weighing whether straws would be offered.
"I felt like taking on this business where everybody's got a cup and everybody's got a straw, it bothered me to put that much plastic and waste into the world," she said. "That's one thing that's really important to me.
"All of our packaging will be compostable. If we have (straws) they will probably be paper straws."
The Alwards gutted the 1,400-square-foot house where Porter's will operate. Backed by a roughly $50,000 revolving fund loan from the Fairfield County Economic Development Department, the Alwards estimate they're investing more than $350,000 in the project.
Once open, Porter's will feature a coffee bar in what used to serve as the house's garage, but which is not attached to the building.
That room will have a large glass window that will allow patrons to look out on state Route 256/Hill Road North much of the year. It can also be lifted to provide an open-air setting.
The name for the business is inspired by Crystal's grandfather, Porter Martin Jr., who died in May 2011.
Alward said the name kept coming back up as she, her husband and the couple's two children were brainstorming to come up with a name for the business.
"Everybody just agreed that would be a good choice," she said.
It's also appropriate, Alward said, because Martin introduced her to coffee at age 5, cautioning it would stunt her growth and joking it would put hair on her chest.
He's now immortalized through the business name and with the Porter's sign, which Alward said offers his "slightly modern and slightly vintage" image at the corner of Hill Road North and West Church Street.
Pickerington Area Chamber of Commerce President Theresa Byers said she was "more than thrilled" when she heard Alward planned to open a coffee house and bakery in Olde Pickerington, adding it's something the city's downtown "has needed for some time."
She said he believes the business will be well-received.
"When Crystal shared their vision with me, I couldn't believe the amount of investment they would be making into the building to achieve her dream," Byers said. "From tearing down walls, closing walls, creating a whole new space and adding parking, this is just the tip of the iceberg of the investment they have made to bring this new gem to our community.
"I believe that the Alwards' investment to bring Porter's Coffee House here is just the start to building a strong and more vibrant downtown," Byers said.