Jared Gravatt, co-owner of Crown Brew Coffee Co., shares his inspiration for the most popular coffee shop in the midwest.
What motivated you to open your own business?
For me personally, it was very hard growing up in small town rural America. I was always frustrated with the lack of quality in our local businesses. Everything always felt so commercial, cheap and apathetic. Ever since I was a young kid, I always had a desire to see local businesses raise up in Southern Illinois that were not only excellent in their craft and customer service, but businesses that created community and celebrated the arts. I wanted to see businesses that the people in this region could be truly proud of. As a millennial growing up in Southern Illinois, I always felt like our ideas and our desires were always on the bottom of the totem pole when it came to our society.
Just like 90% of most millennials who grew up in Southern Illinois, I moved away when I was 18. I wanted to travel the world and experience cultures far different than the one I grew up in. So I did just that. Years later, I eventually landed in Kansas City, Missouri. That’s where I was introduced to the craft coffee scene. These coffee companies were not only positively affecting the communities around them, they were also making a global impact through their business. I always had a desire to impact the world so experiencing this first hand planted a large seed in me.
I grew up always hearing people talk negatively about Southern Illinois. Myself included, until one day I had a radical heart change. I could suddenly see the beauty, opportunity and potential this region has to do incredible things. So I moved back. Long story short, I was speaking at the Marion Civic Center sharing stories about a mission trip I had been on and that’s where I met my now business partner, Josh Benitone. Josh started a nonprofit ministry called “For His Glory.” Josh had just been to Guatemala so he was at the conference selling Guatemalan coffee beans and talking to people about the nonprofit ministry. We connected that night sharing our dreams to start businesses that create positive local and international impact. Soon after that Crown Brew Coffee Company was started.
Get the look (left to right): Mackenzie M. - Women's Fringed Bomber Jacket $148 // Women's V-Neck Strappy Dress $42 // Amuse Society Hayworth Hat $54 // Amuse Society x Matisse Bootie $145. Mackenzie R. - Women's V-neck Sweater with Fringed Sleeves $44 // Hudson Midrise Cropped Super Skinny Denim with Raw Hem $190. Jaylnn - Women's V-Neck Knit Sweater with Back Twist Detail SOLD OUT // Blank NYC Modern Vice Crop $88 // Over the Knee Suede Boots $58. Emma - Women's Faux Suede Jacket with Lace-up Detail and Back Fringe $69 // Women's Paisley Print Velvet Trim Blouse $65 // Blank NYC Belle Bottom Denim $88.
What inspired Crown Brew’s aesthetic?
Before pens hit the paper, I made it known to my business partners that I would never create or try to sell something that I myself wouldn’t want to buy or own. There was definitely a level of vulnerability in our brand and aesthetic because in a way I see it as a reflection of myself and the things that I really appreciate and love. I knew that people were either going to love our style and aesthetic or hate it. I would much rather have a few people love our style and aesthetic and have them walk away truly inspired than to create something all people would like and risk them walking away dull and uninspired because it's super average and has no true visual identity. Craft, art, fashion and style is risky and controversial. However, I believe that when it is presented in its truest form people appreciate it whether or not they love it or hate it. It liberates people to step inside themselves, figure out what makes their heart come alive and then create it externally for themselves. I know not all people will love our style and aesthetic, but I hope they can at least appreciate that it is birthed out of a place of risk and passion.
I love restoring old things. Turning old wood into something modern/rustic. I also love taking “ugly” things like an old couch or chair and designing a room around it so that it looks so beautiful and expensive in its setting. I would describe our aesthetic as more rustic modern with some artistic flares.
How would you define the Crown Brew vibe?
I would describe the vibe as chill and hip; however, it depends on the day. When it's busy, we love playing some loud alternative music to keep the vibes lively. When it's a rainy cold day and people are reading or studying, I like to play some indie folk mellow music to keep the vibes borderline melancholy and chill. Our vibe is really dependent upon the mood, weather, and the baristas that are working. I always like to change things up from time-to-time but still keep the integrity of the “style” or “vibe” which is more hip/folky/laid-back.
All-in-all, we hope our vibe is a welcoming one. One where you can feel safe getting lost in a book, and one where you can get lost in a deep conversation with a close friend without thinking everyone is eavesdropping.
Even though they are two different industries, how does fashion and coffee relate to each other?
Fashion reflects a lifestyle and a mood...and so does coffee. If someone feels like they want to be cute and cozy, then mostly likely they will wear something cute and cozy. Then most likely after that, they will want to go somewhere they believe is cute and cozy. I've found most often than not, the people who appreciate the craft of coffee and its uniqueness often appreciate the craft of quality clothes and design. With that said, I’ve walked into very few hip coffee shops without seeing trendy people hanging out inside. Good fashion and craft coffee just somehow gravitate and compliment each other.
If Crown Brew was a person, what would he/she be like?
It’s hard to say whether or not Crown Brew would be a man or a woman. You can't really tell and I am totally okay with that. I think there are a lot of masculine touches to the company; however, there are also a lot of feminine traits as well. If Crown Brew was a person then they would be very out-of-the-box. Someone who doesn’t fit into the box of social norms or gender stereotypes. However, guy or girl, it's very proud of its pumpkin spice! (haha.) I would like to think Crown Brew would be someone who is very friendly and outgoing. Their outfit is always on point, too. That super-cool older brother or sister who is always there for you when you need them. That person who never judges you no matter what but loves you exactly where you are at. That friend who always likes to keep you caught up on the latest trends so that you don't grow up to be boring, old Scrooge. We are that overly friendly friend who likes to give hugs -- even though you’re not really the hugging type and no human being should really be that excited to see your face every time you walk in the door -- you always walk away feeling super loved, warm and cozy inside.
Do you think Eccentrics Boutique and Crown Brew pair well together?
Umm...100%! If they were people they should date, get married and make lots of babies. For real though, Crown Brew had a business crush on Eccentrics Boutique before Crown Brew ever existed. Never in my life had I messaged a local business before just to tell them how proud I was that they were located in Southern Illinois. I remember back in 2014 messaging Lauren (owner of Eccentrics Boutique) on Facebook and encouraging her. I just felt compelled to celebrate her and the awesome work she was doing.
Even though Eccentrics Boutique and Crown Brew are two very different industries, they have a lot of similarities. They both have a desire to bring a quality product that this region can be proud of. They are both trendy as hell. They both care about the customer and making sure their experience is beyond 110%. They both care about creating community and regional impact. That’s a beautiful and powerful thing in my opinion. I truly believe that the more unified and supportive local business are of each other the more impact we can make in changing a culture for the good.
And we can't agree more!! Eccentrics Boutique is proud to be located in the same town as Crown Brew Coffee Co. We believe even bigger things are in store for this amazing business and look forward to watching them grow. Special thanks to them for letting us do a Christmas inspired photo shoot with our models: Mackenzie Rhenberg, Emma Davis, Jalynn Peeler and Mackenzie Martin.