Brewing business: The Grind provides gathering place for caffeine-lovers
FRANKLIN LIVING—Byron Cheek has been in sales and marketing his entire career, but in May 2018 he branched off from his background as an insurance agent and his success in clothing retail to try his hand at a restaurant venture.
The Grind Café and Coffee Shop opened in Russellville May 30, and Cheek said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. “The community and travelers have really enjoyed it so far,” said Cheek, a Tennessee native who moved to Russellville 10 years ago when he met his wife – and now business partner – Teresa. “We have a lot of people who will come and eat and just sit around and talk for 30 minutes. This gives people a place to come sit and talk, and people have enjoyed that. It’s a calm, laid-back atmosphere.”
The new coffee shop is located in the former Guthrie’s location in Russellville, 13760 Highway 43. Cheek said when his wife pointed out the building was vacant, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for the two of them to establish the restaurant they had discussed for three or four years. “Since I’ve lived here, we’ve never had an established coffee shop,” said Cheek. “I just thought this would be a great location and would be something great for the schools, for young people – like a hangout.”
After two months of remodeling and reconstruction, The Grind was ready. Originally Cheek said he planned to sell only coffee, cold sandwiches and fruit cups, but then they expanded the options to include hot sandwiches – and the plan continued to grow until a full menu was in place.
Of course, a major focus is still the coffee.
“I’ve always loved coffee, and I’ve always made specialty coffees at home,” Cheek said. “I’ve visited coffee shops all over the country and out of the country, and I’ve always been intrigued with coffee.” He describes himself as a self-taught barista, guided by a Tennessee mentor to learn the tricks of the trade. “It is just like anything else: If you take pride in what you do, you’ll get the best results from it. I really enjoy making coffee, and I can socialize with the customers while I’m making coffee and educate the customer on the types of coffees and what they have in them.”
Cheek said crafting a great cup of coffee requires quality beans and quality equipment.
“All of our coffees are fresh ground each day. You have to start with the best coffee bean you can find. I researched and went through about 12 different coffee beans until I found what I considered the perfect medium smooth roast bean,” he said. “It gets the freshest flavor, the best flavor, from the bean if you make the coffee within 10-15 minutes of grinding the bean. Our coffee is really smooth and really bold, especially our lattes.”
He said his personal favorites are The Grind’s signature caramel latte or vanilla bean frappe. “The latte is a hot latte with caramel sauce and two shots of espresso. It’s always been one of my favorites. The frappe is a mixture of vanilla bean, and it also has ground vanilla bean in it. It really tastes really close to a vanilla milkshake.”
In addition to coffees and real fruit smoothies that “are going like wildfire,” The Grind also offers a ribeye sandwich and smoked pork loin sandwich as signature menu items, along with a hand-pattied cheeseburger, hand-battered chicken tenders, homemade chicken salad sandwich and homemade pimento cheese sandwich. Pastries, salads and fruit cups are also on the menu, and for breakfast, customers can enjoy a breakfast croissant or sausage and cheese egg roll – Cheek’s proprietary recipe.
“I hear people say all the time that they get tired of eating the same thing, so we just wanted to give them another option, another place to eat,” said Cheek, emphasizing that he is not out to take away other restaurants’ business. “The more you can offer a town, the more people will come to visit.”
Cheek said he feels positive about the café’s first months in business and hopes for a bright future in Russellville. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been really good, and we’ve been really blessed,” he said. “I just hope we continue to grow and we can keep our food quality and our customer service top notch.”
The Grind is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; it is closed Sunday.
Photos by CHRISTOPHER WEBB