COURIER CITY/OSCAWANA — First they found each other. Then they went looking for coffee.
"We started off like normal people do," Dave Ward said, "going to a coffee shop and hanging out."
The search for the perfect cup took Dave and his wife, Susan, from coffee shops to stores, testing beans, blends, waters, grinders and brewing methods. After years of caffeine-fueled research, Dave said they found just one thing that made the biggest difference: Fresh-roasted beans.
And so Dave Ward began ordering coffee beans and roasting them in his Hyde Park garage, and eventually decided to pack some up as Christmas gifts for friends. He bagged them and slapped a label on them: Buddy Brew Beans, named after the Wards' beloved dog. Friends asked for more.
And then about two years ago, Ward, a commercial investment banker, found himself with less work and more time to tend to his so-called "maniacal passion." He began building a brand for Buddy Brew online and found customers all over the country.
Last month the passion became a full-time gig. The Wards opened a retail shop and "roastery" for Buddy Brew at 2020 W Kennedy Blvd.
The shop sells only brewed coffee and a variety of fresh-roasted beans — no lattes, fancy drinks or sugary baked goods. Just coffee, $2 for a bottomless cup, and $12 for a 14-ounce-ish bag of fresh-roasted beans.
"One of the things we learned years ago was that fresh- roasted coffee is awesome," Dave Ward said. "It didn't even matter if the beans were great or even if they were roasted properly. The fact that they were fresh was the biggest difference."
Ward said he brings a selection of top-quality beans into his shop, roasts them and tells his customers to finish the bag within two weeks for best results. He'll grind the beans for you if you ask, but recommends grinding as you go for the tastiest cup.
For now, Dave runs the show, as Susan Ward still has a regular job in the pharmaceutical industry. Dave hopes she can join him soon because he's having such a good time.
"It's great to chase a passion, but what happens when the passion becomes work and a job?" Ward said. "That's the thing we we're very, very careful with. …That's another reason the coffee is such a cool thing, because coffee in general is fun."
Buddy Brew is open from 7 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday and almost every Saturday. The store's website is buddybrew.com.
Grass Root to open in South Tampa
Health-conscious South Tampa residents who are serious about eating "clean" will have a new option for dining out next month.
The family that brought vegan and raw dining to Tampa Heights and Lakeland will open a location of its restaurant concept, Grass Root, at 4334 S Manhattan Ave. in Manhattan Plaza.
The new Grass Root will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant also will sell a small selection of supplements and will feature a juice bar with an assortment of fresh fruit and other natural juices.
"It's going to be the best menu we've ever had," co-owner Sabrina Sterling said. "We're holding nothing back with this one."
The Tampa Heights location has developed a loyal following for its inventive vegan and raw dishes, such as its vegan version of pad thai and the Sabrina's Favorite Sandwich, which features an onion bread that is dried, not cooked. Sabrina and Spencer Sterling also have been developing a larger dessert menu in recent months to prepare for the South Tampa opening.
Grass Root is expected to open in mid-June. For updates, visit the restaurant's website at thegrassrootlife.com.