In 2008, Lori Chandler left her job at Sprint and started searching for a new business venture.
“I worked for Sprint for 18 years,” Chandler says. “I wanted to do something completely different — not corporate.”
Chandler also wanted to feel more connected to her community in Johnson County. In January 2010, a time when the economy was tanking, she took a risk and opened Take Five Coffee Bar in the Nall Valley Shops at 151st Street and Nall Avenue.
To differentiate her shop from coffee chains like Starbucks, Chandler put the focus on top-tier beans. Seattle’s Zoka Coffee Roasters supplied Take Five’s beans in the beginning, but more recently, Chandler switched to a local supplier: Kansas City’s own Broadway Roasting Company.
She also hired and trained baristas to grind beans fresh and make coffee drinks one cup at a time, with freshly steamed milk. At Take Five, each cup of coffee is like a work of art, but the pour-over coffee is the masterpiece: A barista hand-pours precisely heated water through a paper filter filled with freshly ground, single-origin beans. The resulting coffee is deliciously complex yet smooth — and because there’s little bitterness, you don’t need milk and sugar to make it palatable.
Chandler encourages her customers to chill out while they sip their java. The lodge-like space is conducive to relaxation: There are comfy chairs surrounding a stone fireplace, wooden beams suspended from the ceiling, booths next to power outlets for laptops, and a shelf full of board games and books. Outside, there’s a tree-lined patio with a babbling fountain.
Even the prices encourage you to linger: A medium coffee in a paper to-go cup costs $2.44, but a house cup in a ceramic mug costs $1.90 and comes with a free refill.
“We’ve created a society that’s very urgent,” Chandler says. “I want to take some of that urgency out of someone’s day.”
A glass case of tempting sweets offers another reason to stick around. Picture layered lemon bars dusted with confectioners’ sugar, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls caked with icing and fat slices of carrot cake slathered with cream cheese frosting and studded with walnut pieces.
On the savory side, there’s pesto hummus, paninis, salads, breakfast sandwiches and homemade quiche.
There’s a big emphasis on local and from-scratch food at Take Five. The best-selling cinnamon rolls are baked in-house, the carrot cake is from Golden Boy Pies in Overland Park and the deliciously sweet green tea is from Huge Tea in Kansas City. Even the biscotti is made locally in Kansas City — if you like macadamia nuts, try Benish’s Bakery’s Trade Winds biscotti, with hints of cocoa and rum.
Local jazz is also on the menu at Take Five, which was named after the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1959 classic. On most Fridays and Saturdays, the coffee shop transforms to a laid-back jazz lounge where customers of all ages can watch Kansas City jazz musicians like trumpeter Hermon Mehari and singer Shay Estes do their thing.
In the evening, the coffee shop’s menu expands to include beer (Boulevard, Guinness, O’Dell’s), wine and chocolate martinis spiked with espresso-infused Tito’s Vodka, which adds sultry smokiness.
Take Five has become a destination for live jazz in the area — despite its location, which Chandler jokes is “halfway to Wichita” on Interstate 35 South. A few weeks ago, Oregon-based drummer (and Topeka native) Todd Straight played a show at Take Five. Chandler says more than 100 music lovers packed the coffee shop, filling every available seat.
Chandler expects another huge turnout on Sept. 20, when Take Five hosts a CD release party for the KC Trumpet Summit, a trio that includes Stanton Kessler, Hermon Mehari and Mike Metheny. The $10 cover charge will go directly to the musicians, Chandler says. (A complete listing of upcoming shows is attakefivecoffeebar.com.
On busy nights like those, Chandler looks around her shop and sees her community slowing down and coming together over coffee and music. She sees her risk paying off in a meaningful way.
“People bring their whole families to listen to music,” Chandler says, “The kids get to talk to the musicians during set breaks. It’s really cool to be able to share that with families here.”