By Kalea Hall
Vindicator, Youngstown, Ohio
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Twins Emily and Levi Smith turned their love for coffee into a thriving business. The siblings are not only coffee entrepreneurs, but sophomore students at Youngstown State University.
It’s one hot Monday afternoon at the Coz Coffee Bar when Emily and Levi Smith come out of their barn-turned-coffee shop.
Outside, the trash can is filled with coffee cups. It’s been another busy day for the twin 19-year-olds. Still, the duo is excited to discuss how their love of coffee formed a business.
“We are big coffee nerds,” Levi said.
The coffee nerds were turned entrepreneurs right after they graduated from Western Reserve High School in 2015.
They were picking blueberries and strawberries at White House Fruit Farms when they heard of the opportunity to open a coffee shop inside White House, 9249 Youngstown-Salem Road.
In May, Levi and Emily pitched the idea of them opening the coffee shop to White House owner Debbie Pifer, a cousin.
“We thought it would give us a whole new dimension that we couldn’t do ourselves,” Pifer said. “It was a great marriage of two small businesses.”
Levi and Emily were given the OK, and White House gave a starting investment to help get the new business off the ground.
Emily and Levi did their research, and by September of last year, they were ready to open.
Levi had worked as a barista before, so he had the knowledge of how to make a great cup of coffee. From there, it was a lot of reading and reaching out to other coffee shops for advice and information on where to source coffee beans.
“A lot of it is experimenting and seeing what we could do to get different tastes,” Levi said.
Levi and Emily found a variety of roasters to get their coffee beans.
The single-origin coffee the Coz Coffee Bar uses is grown within a single-known geographic origin.
“It’s like the fine wines of the coffee industry,” Levi said.
The goal of single-origin coffee is to bring to light what coffee can be with the different tastes of different countries.
While Levi explores the tastes of coffee, his sister researches coffee history and culture.
“We bring it together to make the atmosphere of the coffee shop,” Emily said.
The atmosphere is that of a cozy coffee shop, as they intended. Coffee bean bags line the front of the coffee bar. Emily sells her hand-knitted coffee cozies that are placed next to their grandmother’s hand-knitted dish towels at the register.
A chalkboard message to customers gives a simple reminder from Coz ‘s elephant mascot: “Life without coffee is irrelephant.”
Coz Coffee Bar doesn’t have an espresso machine to make lattes, but they do make faux lattes, which are similar to regular lattes with but made with just frothed milk and coffee instead of espresso. Coz ‘s faux latte has a lighter taste than the traditional.
“Our aim is to have that taste that is recognizable and a different experience for the drinker,” Levi said.
Levi and Emily made sure to have another element that made their shop stand out: homemade syrups.
Coz has 20 syrups on the bar, with many seasonal flavors. July is blueberry month. Another new flavor to hit the bar is lavender.
The coffee shop also has a few speciality drinks the owners and their friends developed.
Emily’s boyfriend, Todd, came up with “The Todd,” a mocha peanut butter dessert drink that is a top seller.
Levi’s girlfriend, Miranda, created “The Randa,” a cinnamon chocolate chai tea drink available in the fall.
Artisan sodas are another fan favorite. Any of the homemade syrups can be carbonated into a bubbly soda.
Smoothies are the newest menu item at Coz .
The name of the coffee bar is as unique as its menu. Emily and Levi wanted something that made their guests feel cozy like they do when they drink a cup of coffee. A friend suggested, ‘Why not just call it cozy?’
Emily and Levi liked the idea, but they wanted to put their own flavor on it with and accented “E” instead of a “Y.”
“It has no literal meaning, but it means a lot to us,” Levi said.
An elephant is the symbol for Coz. Legend has it elephants never forget. Emily and Levi want their customers to remember their coffee.
“We also love elephants,” Emily said.
Emily and Levi are not only coffee entrepreneurs, but sophomore Youngstown State University students.
Emily is a double major in business and fashion with a minor in history.
Levi is a double major in marketing and communications with a minor in French.
With help from their family and friends, they are able to keep on top of the business.
In April, Emily and Levi paid off the investment White House made to get Coz started. Now, the business is completely separate with Emily and Levi as the sole owners.
The owners have already settled into their separate roles. Levi makes the coffee usually while Emily works the register, knits coffee cozies and listens to their customers’ stories.
“It’s really just a lot of fun,” Levi said. “My big thing is to find what you love. If you can make a living doing it what better way to live your life?”
Emily and Levi work with local speciality shops to get the word out about small business and local coffee. From noon to 2 p.m. Aug. 6, Coz will have “A Tour of Drinks” event to bring together local coffee, tea, juice and speciality beverage professionals. The free event will take place outside the White House Fruit Farms market.