Java Experiences: The Coffee Ethic
Learn how a love of coffee ultimately translated into a career change and a thriving addition to Springfield’s coffee scene.
Kansas native Tom Billionis never guessed he’d own a coffee shop, let alone one in downtown Springfield.
Billionis is co-owner of The Coffee Ethic. Nearly five years ago, Billionis was living in Arizona and looking for a career change. One day, when speaking with friend and future co-owner Jim Hamilton, Billionis casually suggested he might like to open a coffee shop. Hamilton then tossed out Springfield as a good location. At the time, Billionis was familiar with the city but still had some things to learn. “I didn’t even know that Springfield had a downtown,” says Billionis.
However, mere months later, Billionis was on his way back to the Midwest, with the intention of bringing Springfield’s coffee scene to a whole new level.
When The Coffee Ethic opened for business in December 2007, Billionis and Hamilton decided to primarily focus on serving coffee and craft beverages. The niche was one yet to be filled in Springfield’s coffee scene, and the public paid attention.
“We found an audience almost immediately,” says Billionis.
However, Billionis stresses that the shop isn’t necessarily better or worse than other shops. It’s just different—a difference that ties to the shop’s name.
“Your ethic is your theory of living,” says Billionis. “We had a very specific way we wanted to do things when it came to coffee.”
The Coffee Ethic’s brewed coffee (made-to-order by the cup, mind you), traditional espresso sizes and overall genuine attitude about coffee made the budding business stand out.
The relaxed atmosphere also plays a role in bringing back customers again and again. “We tried to create an overall experience that was in a creative environment,” says Billionis. In addition to coffee, The Coffee Ethic also offers a small and focused selection of craft beers. Billionis says that the selection is comprised of beers that aren’t typically available in 417-land, and they’ve resulted in a different demographic of customers.
The Coffee Ethic’s existence benefits more people than just those in 417-land. The coffee house serves coffee sourced from direct trade relationships, which means that the coffee growers are paid well above market or fair trade prices.
It’s a win-win situation: Great coffee benefits everyone.
While Billionis is concerned with providing quality products to customers, he also wants to promote education. That’s why The Coffee Ethic offers a variety of classes and special events for the public to attend.
These gatherings include Imbibe events, which Billionis describes as “celebrations of taste,” and cuppings, which are formal coffee tastings that include coffee brewed from different types of beans.
“You really start to understand the nuances from one kind to another,” says Billionis.