On a recent Thursday morning, Marcus Boni takes a seat in the slim-backed orange chairs inside the Kaldi’s Coffee at 4771 Jefferson Street. He watches the pre-lunch crowd come through the recently remodeled shop, that said Latteland out front as recently as a month ago, for a shot of caffeine. As they bounce underneath the panel of glowing bulb lights, he sits still. This is a man who knows how to handle his caffeine.
The vice president of retail operations and marketing for Kaldi’s Coffee is in the midst of several different coffee experiments — tasting ice creams for a potential affogato, trying to perfect a coffee cocktail for tonight’s open house at the company’s two Plaza locations, and attempting a bit of alchemy to create a frozen coffee treat for a future event.
“I’m a coffee person through and through,” Boni says. “I love the product and the craft and the immediate personal connection.”
In 2012, Boni joined the staff at Kaldi’s in St. Louis before the acquisition of Latteland. The company purchased the six area locations from Edward Schultz last year. Schultz is the managing partner of the Honolulu Roasting Co., which already counted Kaldi’s as a majority interest holder. Lattleland had been using Kaldi’s Coffee since 2007.
“This was a good fit for Kaldi’s and a chance to tell our story in Kansas City,” Boni says.
A veteran of the coffee industry, Boni had worked for Intelligentsia Coffee in Chicago from 2001 to 2008. When he left he was the vice president of retail, and had helped shepherd the expansion of the Midwest roaster into California. His travels on the West Coast led him to a job with the California-based Specialty Coffee Association of America, a non-profit that organizes barista competitions and career training.
After four years with the SCAA, he took a position with Kaldi’s because of the opportunity to get back into retail and a chance to continue to develop the food program in St. Louis while shaping the roaster’s entrance into the Kansas City market.
“Kansas City has an amazing coffee environment. The coffee community here rivals that of a large, very integrated city with bigger coffee programs,” Boni says. “Not only do they have great shops, but they are so well received by the community. This is a city that appreciates good coffee and good things.”
The Jefferson Street property’s renovation took its cues from its high ceilings. Boni looked to give it a modern touch with metal orange chairs, a ‘Big Ass Fan,’ [just look up when ordering, you can’t miss it] and a series of globe bulbs over the barista bar. The Kaldi’s at 318 W 47th Street location was designed to be more subdued with dark woods and darker seating.
“This is about embracing the communities we serve. We wanted to design and remodel the stores based on the communities around us. Kaldi’s is an approachable shop,” Boni says.
As part of Kaldi’s expansion into Kansas City, they’ve opened a Regional Training and Community Coffee Center (110 E 5th Street) in the River Market. One side is a lab, where they’re working on menu development and barista training. The other side is meant to be a community space, where they’ll begin offering classes and cuppings later this year.
“That’s a chance to find out what others are tasting, not just what we taste. And then use that for our menu,” Boni says.
Two new additions currently in the works are the aforementioned affogato (a drink made with espresso and ice cream) and an iced Clever coffee. The Clever dripper is a cone brewer that has you pour water over grounds, which steep until you release a plug at the base that allows the coffee to enter the container underneath it.
“We’re special ordering cylinder ice cubes. We’ll bring them in a Gilbratar glass [picture a tiny tumbler], so you can add the coffee over time rather than all at once,” Boni says.
As part of the shift from Latteland to Kaldi’s, Boni will also be tweaking the bakery and food menu. However, he’s adamant that one thing won’t be changed: the wedding cake cookie.
“That will never go away,” Boni says. “I love that thing.”
Kaldi’s baked goods will start seeing more influence from the coffee program with espresso brownies or espresso cream-filled eclairs. While the size of the shops in Kansas City don’t allow for the same extensive food menu that Kaldi’s has in St. Louis – a lineup of sandwiches and salads – Boni is eager to add the crustless quiche.
Currently all of the baked goods are made at Kaldi’s location at 7900 State Line in Prairie Village. The shop, which still says Latteland out front, will be renovated in late July. Along with changes to the interior and seating, Boni also plans to expand the bakery. The other three area locations (at Briarcliff, Zona Rosa and the Power & Light District) are tentatively slated to be remodeled in 2015.
Kaldi’s is holding an open house at its Jefferson Street and 47th Street locations from 5 to 8 p.m. tonight. Jefferson Street will have a DJ playing, food from Gram & Dun and Wyatt’s Special – a bourbon and iced toddy cocktail made with lemon ginger syrup. 47th Street will have a jazz trio, pour over service and its own signature cocktail.
“It’s the same people working here, there’s just a new energy,” Boni says. “It’s our way to say thanks and introduce people to Kaldi’s.”