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Chili shop creates a community over coffee

Rochester Business Journal
March 7, 2014

Coffee has played a special role in Will Scharvogel’s life.

As a high school student, he enjoyed going to Java’s Cafe in downtown Rochester with his father. Later it was the place where he met his wife.

Today, Scharvogel, 35, owns Leaf and Bean Coffee Co. Inc. with his father, Bill, in Chili. The father-and-son team opened the community spot in 2003.

“Virtually anyone can enjoy a hot chocolate or a cup of coffee, and it is a neutral place for people to meet, do business, to do schoolwork, to spend time and catch up on each other’s lives,” Scharvogel says of the coffee shop experience.

He adds: “I feel that people who come to Leaf and Bean and enjoy coming back have decided that there is more to life than living each day as a race in a stress-filled and smoggy drive-thru world. They have made a conscious decision how to best spend their time and money, and they value the personable interactions that spontaneously occur here.”

In addition to offering beverages, Leaf and Bean also makes panini, sandwiches, wraps and desserts that cost $6.25 to $7.50. Coffee prices vary with the body, acidity, flavor, aroma and degree of roast, but most drinks at the cafe are under $5. The shop serves classics like egg salad, tuna melts and chicken salad sandwiches. Soups and salads are also part of the daily fare.

Some of the items on the menu are named after local streets. For instance, the Westside panini has turkey breast, fresh mozzarella, leafy greens and red onions on herbed focaccia bread, while the Union panini is roast beef, greens and roasted red peppers on white panini bread with a side of horseradish mayo.

“Over the past 10 years, some of the names have taken on a life of their own,” Scharvogel says. “It is very neat to see the connection that has developed between our customers and some of their favorite menu items.”

Leaf and Bean offers more than 80 varieties and specialty flavors of coffee and tea, sourced from around the world, at its Whole Bean Coffee and Loose Tea Emporium. Customers often purchase varieties to try at home.

Both the Scharvogel men have a passion for motorcycles as well as for coffee, and Leaf and Bean is a popular hangout for motorcyclists in the summer. The outdoor patio creates an additional place to enjoy the weather, and on occasion the cafe has independent artists who play music, Scharvogel says.

Leaf and Bean employs about 30 part-time staffers who relish coffee and customer service. Scharvogel himself knows most of his customers by first name because they live in the area and work close by. It is not unusual to have a customer who comes in daily or even multiple times during the day. Over the years, Scharvogel says, he has watched many customers’ children grow and start families of their own. He believes coffee shops are more than just a commodity. They have become places to share experiences.

“Coffee is a great common denominator,” he says.

Samantha Reynolds is a Rochester Business Journal intern.

Small Business is a biweekly feature focusing on entrepreneurs. Send suggestions for future Small Business stories to Associate Editor Smriti Jacob at

3/7/14 (c) 2014 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email

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