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Kent State Faculty Members Collaborate to Open New Downtown Kent Businesses

Kent State faculty members are bringing their entrepreneurial skills and expertise to Acorn Alley II, a new hot spot for small business owners in downtown Kent.

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Kent State Faculty Members Collaborate to Open New Downtown Kent Businesses

Posted Jan. 30, 2012 | Meghan Caprez

The interior design of newly opened Tree City Pastry & Coffee was done by husband and wife design team Jason Turnidge and Kathryn Strand, both faculty members from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design.

Kent State faculty members are bringing their entrepreneurial skills and expertise to Acorn Alley II, a new hot spot for small business owners in downtown Kent.

Evan Bailey, operations manager of The Tannery and an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is
co-owner of Tree City Coffee & Pastry, which opened Jan. 16, in downtown Kent. The majority of Tree City’s employees are Kent State students.

The shop's atmosphere is a result of a collaboration between husband and wife design team Jason Turnidge and Kathryn Strand, both faculty members from the College of Architecture and Environmental Design. The interior is open and light – defined by a 13’ high tree/fireplace and illuminated by a window-like garage door that takes up a majority of the store's front. The door can be opened to Erie Street in warm weather. A drive-through window is also open year-round for those who wish to have their coffee and meals on the go.

Bailey and his partners, Mike Beder and Brian Bower, hoped to create a unique, high-quality coffee shop with the mission to feature organic and direct trade products.

"We want to be perceived as a boutique coffee shop, offering the customers the best and freshest quality products possible," Bailey says.

Tree City offers eight locally-roasted coffees, a variety of homemade pastries and sandwiches, some of which feature organic, freshly ground peanut butter. Bailey also hopes to offer wine for retail and at regular wine tasting events.

Many of the materials used to decorate the coffee shop were sourced locally. A large piece of 200- to 400-year-old cherry wood from a barn in Mansfield was used to create the bar. Other pieces around the shop were also recycled from local sources.

"We want people to explore," Bailey says. "We want people to look around and to ask questions."

Bailey believes that his experience in the College of Communication and Information aided him in the creation of his business. He says that skills such as marketing, advertising and public relations were all key in bringing the Tree City brand to reality.

"The College of Communication and Information coursework offered a breadth of experiences that came in super handy when starting a business," Bailey says.

Tree City Coffee & Pastry is open 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, and 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.

Aaron Rosenberg, ScanPath UX Manager with student-run, full-service integrated marketing communications firm The Tannery and the School of Library and Information Science, also collaborated to open a popcorn shop in downtown Kent called “Popped!” Rosenberg’s expertise was put to use in the 18-month process of the shop's creation, which included researching technology, in-depth interviews, creating a blog and, of course, eating lots of popcorn.

"I was involved in the technology side of things," Rosenberg says. "We wanted something inexpensive, so I found an iPad application to use as a register. The small decisions helped us save money in the long run."

The store is pedestrian-friendly, as it offers a walk-up window for popcorn orders and easy-to-hold popcorn cones for window shoppers. Popped! is expected to open for business soon.