You can get a cup of coffee anywhere, anytime, but the coffee shop experience is what attracted Alex Merrell, owner of Hammerhand Coffee in downtown Liberty, to get in the business.
The graphic arts graduate dreamed of having his own place after stints in coffee shops from Westport to Philly.
“I’m not sure what my professors would think if they knew I was only using my degree for Instagram,” Merrell says.
He and two silent partners chose Liberty because “we wanted to commit our investment to a specific area and to see its success,” Merrell says. The historic Liberty Square may not sound like the hipster hot spot for hobnobbing, but it gets a fair share of traffic, especially from nearby William Jewell College.
A cafe and brewery, plus construction of new sidewalks and parking spots, are reviving the small district.
For his part, Merrell brings a bright and happy design element to the block, occupying the corner building at 22 N. Main. It features tall ceilings, stained glass transoms and a shotgun-style layout. Hammerhand’s signature color, turquoise, pops throughout the shop.
“It’s simple, timeless design,” he says.
Some of the hardware, however, may be off-putting to die-hard coffee fans.
“What we offer isn’t quite the same. We are taking a different stance than other shops by embracing modern technology,” Merrell says.
For instance, Hammerhand brews through an automatic pour-over machine, sleek and white, like it was made by Apple, as well as a “big, ugly, drip-coffee machine.”
Merrell previously worked at Quay Coffee where everything was made by hand. “That’s great, but when you get busy, that can become a liability,” he says.
The coffee he puts into the machines — from Counter Culture and Oddly Correct, as well as a guest slot on rotation (currently, it’s Post Coffee Co., from Lee’s Summit) — ultimately create a quality cup of joe.
Merrell — and his customers — are pleased with Hammerhand’s choices and success. “We may lose street cred in the coffee industry for using technology, but we say don’t judge it before you taste it.”