ASHLAND Sky 37 has had a packed house since the day it opened, less than a week ago.
Owner Jason Crum was anticipating a soft opening serving few more than the Sky Tower companies’ employees and residents. The plan was for a soft opening with a decent steady stream of people. However, the community caught wind of the new coffee shop and people continually filed through the doors for specialty coffee.
“I don’t think there’s anything soft about this opening, I feel like we landed pretty hard,” Crum said with a laugh. “It’s a good thing. We’re not complaining.”
The story of 37 coffee spans far beyond a local resident’s love of java or business aspirations. Crum worked in energy and traveled back and forth to Brazil. On one Friday in the South American country, he stopped into a furniture store he loved to visit. From there, JC Mercantile in Lloyd was born five years ago. The furniture, jewelry and items in the store are handmade and imported from Brazil or made locally. More than 70 people create for JC Mercantile, Crum said.
Through visits to the country and the furniture business, Crum built relationship with friends in Brazil. One day he got a call, his friends had opened a café in the mountains of Brazil. The café is about 46 kilometers out of Vila Velha, which is on the eastern coast of the country. The café is at the 37 kilometer mark of the road and is high enough in the mountains that the temperature begins to drop. The café is called 37 Express after the marker.
Visiting the café and his friends in Brazil inspired him to bring home some of the coffee for people to try. When Crum got back to the states, they hatched a plan to import coffee.
“I took as much coffee back in my suitcase as I could legally do,” Crum said.
They began airfreighting coffee to the JC Mercantile store to sell. There wasn’t any profit in the coffee because of the expense of airfreighting, but people enjoyed it and 37 coffee came to life in Kentucky. They began serving the coffee in the store using a conventional pour over kit, different from the ceramic ones they are using now.
About three years ago Crum was approached by Alyson Christie of Sky Tower about a vision she had. Crum said they discussed having a café on the first floor to serve the building. Sixteen months of work, slowed by the pandemic, went in prior to Tuesday’s supposed soft opening.
Crum said they spent the time working on the room, getting permits and everything they needed to open. A door was added to the outside, on the off chance someone from the outside would want to come in without going through the Sky Tower doors.
After the response from the outside community, the door proved a good idea.
He hadn’t run any statistics on guests yet, but “I guarantee you I’ve had more people from the outside come in than I think even on the inside. It’s exciting,” said Crum.
The shop serves specialty coffee, Brazilian-American cuisine and other goodies.
Sky 37 currently offers breakfast and lunch with occasional dinners on the way.
The hope is to have dinner every other week with a special paired with music.
“That’s very Brazilian to see music and dancing at nights and evenings, live music, people having a great time,” Crum said.
Stopping in the shop is a chance to get a great cup of coffee, have an experience and slow down for a minute while the pour over method extracts more flavor for the coffee.
The coffee being served at Sky 37 is at an 84 point grade on a scale of 0 to 100. Coffees rated 80 and above have fewer defects in them. Crum explained that lower grade coffee isn’t defective, but has malformed beans and can have a more bitter taste due to the lower grade. Specialty coffee allows for fewer defects and is often smoother, enhancing the flavor profile.
Crum buys coffee directly from farms in Brazil, it’s graded and freighted into Greenup where he roasts and grinds the coffee specifically for the ceramic pour over kits used at Sky 37. A family in Brazil Crum is close with showed him the kit, which he loved, so they turned around and bought it for him as a gift. Crum said the kits cost about $300 USD, which converts over to be around 1,500 in Brazilian Real.
Currently, Sky 37 only offers their specialty coffee brewed through the ceramic pour over kits. It takes a couple minutes longer than a machine, but Crum explained the process and the specific kits pull more of the flavor out and give customers a better tasting coffee.
The grounds currently being used at Sky 37 have tones of caramel and a nuttier finish. Crum said they have beans with a fruiter taste “on the water” and they’ll arrive in July. Those beans will “have almost an orange peel taste.”
Often “Brazilians pair coffees with certain desserts … a dark chocolate might be paired with the fruity (coffee), much like how wine pairings are done,” Crum explained.
Crum loves the science behind the extraction, the pairing and what happens to the beans at each stage. He researches over the course of months or longer and is a scientist at heart. He fell in love with the process while in roasting school.
Sky 37 offers a breakfast and lunch menu and more, which incorporates Brazilian and United States culture.
Crum wants to bring an experience along with a good cup of coffee to Ashland. Often shops like Sky 37 are reserved for larger cities like Lexington or Louisville, he said.
“Those guys get all the stuff,” Crum said. “They always get the good things to me … and our area, we struggle. I’m from the area, and I’d like to see it grow.”
Crum has more on the way for Sky 37. The shop will begin serving iced coffee in the coming weeks, new coffees will be sourced, but always specialty grade, and Crum is researching the best way to decaffeinate the coffee without losing the flavor and quality. Two more shop locations will be opening over the next year. The JC Mercantile store will shut down for about two months, the kitchen will be finished and a full shop will be there along with a café in West Virginia. A Sky 37 app is being developed by Crum’s counterparts in Brazil for online ordering and a possible drive-through or pickup option down the line.
Crum wants to serve small town America. “Our biggest thing is we want to be where the people are,” Crum said. He said he took a page out of the Dollar General playbook. The store is almost always in residential communities and between the people and the big chains.
The “other guys,” the big chains have “saturated the big cities and a city has to be a certain size before they’ll grace them with their presence,” Crum explained. “I don’t think that’s fair to the people that live in rural America. I felt like we needed to change the dynamic and the only way I knew how to do it, is to start our own.”
Sky 37’s hours are currently Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and closed on weekends during the soft opening. More hours are planned along with dinners and special events. The coffee shop’s address is 1212 Bath Avenue in Ashland.
(606) 326-2654 |