Update: Cheech’s Own is now open for business.
Posted: Feb. 19, 2018:
Steven Chiocchi (aka “Cheech”) has always appreciated a strong, well-made cup of coffee. But what the multi-start-up entrepreneur once considered fuel for his busy days has now become his newest business venture.
The 30-year-old is serving up a brick-and-mortar shop to showcase his beloved cold brew as well as a complete line of organic coffee, and looks forward to opening Cheech’s Own Coffee Company at 37 West Main St. in Somerville in late April.
“I’ve always had a passion for coffee,” he says. “Because I spend most of the day in front of the computer, it helps me stay focused. But I was looking for something that was all-natural, and because I’m lactose intolerant, I like a coffee that tastes great and doesn’t need anything added to it.”
Once Chiocchi discovered cold brew several summers ago, his curiosity was piqued. When he found himself spending a lot of money on the elixir, the innovator began exploring how he could come up with his own version of the caffeinated delight. After experimenting with farm-sourced coffee beans, 100 percent natural spring water, and a 24-hour slow-steep method, he developed a concentrate he was proud to share with fellow java junkies.
“I started making cold brew in my kitchen and serving it out of mason jars to my friends, local businesses, and bartenders (who use it in craft cocktails) as a free treat,” he recalls.
Before long, Chiocchi realized he’d created a winning recipe and turned to a commercial kitchen to pursue expanding Cheech’s Own Coffee Company.
Embracing the grind
If the name and the concept sound familiar, you may have sampled the clean and crisp coffee concentrate at a local farmers market or festival.
“We were attending five to ten events a week during peak season,” he says, “and a lot of people asked where our cafe was. We came to a fork in the road, and instead of investing in a large-scale production facility, which presents a range of unknowns, we went with the cafe.”
While restaurants and shops in the Somerville area have been selling the concentrate, which is also available through Cheech’s online store, the entrepreneur wanted to build a retail space to offer a year-round experience and make his all-natural product available to his hometown.
Unlike other coffee houses, Chiocchi says the experience will mimic a craft cocktail bar in which there’s full transparency in regard to both ingredients and process. A speciality board will showcase the unique brews and blends available. A mix of traditional and modern teas are also on the menu and will include classics like lemon black tea as well as contemporary finds that Chiocchi calls “really cool hybrids,” such as chili mango tea and matcha super green. To accompany innovative teas, traditional lattes, Americanos, and espressos, Chiocchi says the cafe will feature “a lot of healthy food options” but adds he’s still a “sucker for an old-fashioned donut.”
“In addition to our coffees, we’ll have mocktails and we’re going for a speakeasy vibe,” he says. “We’ll offer locally-made vegan and vegetarian options, and gluten-free foods as well as desserts and grab-and-go meals for both morning and lunchtime hours.”
Championing local artists
Entertainment will also be a staple, according to Chiocchi, who’s excited to offer the thriving Somerville art community a platform. In addition to showcasing the work of local artists, the cafe will provide a space for live performances for musicians, slam poets, and creators seeking an appreciative audience.
Additionally, the start-up guru who helms The Areli Group, which designs and develops websites and apps, will present educational forums on entrepreneurship as well as the ever-evolving coffee industry.
“We’re centered on the busiest corner in town,” Chiocchi says. “Whatever people want to do, we want to be the hub.”
The cafe is currently collecting interest from local artists and accepting submissions for 2018. Visit Cheech’s Own’s website for more information or to sign up.
More than just a cup of joe
Coffee lovers seeking more than a caffeine fix will find plenty to choose from in the retail section of Cheech’s Own. Chiocchi explains that the cafe will offer an ample selection of unique items sourced from local farmers markets and vendors all over the country. From branded clothing and apparel to all-natural and coffee-infused soaps, the shop’s merchandise will include some of Chiocchi’s favorite finds.
“Most importantly, you’ll be able to get the really cool stuff we’re using behind the bar, like the aeropress coffee maker,” he says.
Cheech’s Own is currently hiring baristas. Those interested can email a resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.