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Featured Stakeholder Series with Will Forsman, Co-Owner of Cafe Steam

Cafe Steam has become a staple of our community and we know that is no easy feat. Will Forsman, co-owner of Cafe Steam sheds some light on how Cafe Steam has become much more than just your traditional coffee shop.

What is your favorite thing about Rochester?

Rochester is sort of a blank slate in the best of ways. We get to experience a lot of things for the first time that a lot of other cities are worn out on. And that joy you get from being a part of something organically happening in your city is something that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Rochester is changing - Whether its street fairs, pop-up shops, food trucks, ride sharing, start-ups, music events etc.. There are things happening in this town that it hasn’t experienced before and it’s finally becoming cool to be ‘involved’.

What do you think is the best kept secret about downtown?

The tight knit community willing to accept newcomers and support each other’s passion while never being afraid to lend a hand.

What do you think the biggest change will be to downtown in the next 20 years, and what do you look forward to most?

Changes in Public opinion and infrastructure to accommodate Pedestrian and Bicycle traffic is my prediction for the biggest change. There are a lot of people working hard with positive results to make Rochester more accessible to both bicyclists and pedestrians and to have that incorporated into the expansion of the DMC. I look forward to the day when those that choose this type of commuting are not viewed as a fringe culture.

Why did you start your company? What inspired you?

I grew into my ownership of Café Steam but have been with it since day one, working my way up from the former Press Coffee and Tea. Originally we took ownership of the shop to maintain its foothold as one of few gathering spaces in Rochester. Since opening in January of 2015, we’ve seen that simple desire continue to be upheld while truly taking on a life of its own. Our goal is use coffee to form a space that creatives can use to expand their connections and feel like they are a part of something. In the short story “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” Hemingway writes of a café serving not only as a place of food and drink, but also as a place of refuge neither work nor home. Under this same principle we have been able to provide for Rochester a unique space built on great coffee.

What has been your most memorable moment(s) since going into business?

Without a doubt hearing someone say that without your coffee shop they wouldn’t be in Rochester is one of the most gratifying things a business owner can hear. The feeling however is mutual, as we wouldn’t be in Rochester without them.

Why is it important to you to be operating from downtown Rochester? Why did you/do you want to be downtown?

Downtown Rochester is the perfect vantage point from which you can experience and understand what is happening in this city. The downtown is shared and belongs to all parts of Rochester which allows us to use it to meet and promote the exchange of ideas.

Operating downtown, what has it meant for your business?

We would not be the shop we are today without our connection to the downtown. We owe a lot of our success to the close relationships that we’ve built with those at the Mayo Clinic, UMR and those that live and work in the downtown and the support that they have given to us as we grow.

Is there something in your store that would surprise most people?

The level of talent each of our staff possess outside of coffee is incredible. While not making coffee they live other lives as photographers, painters, graphic designers, nurses, writers or musicians – the list goes on. It’s become not only a place for creatives to hang out, but to work. And the way they incorporate those talents into the shop makes a huge impact on its overall feel.

Is there a fan favorite, popular item, or brand that people can just seem to get enough of?

There is a bit of an underground following of some of our off-menu items, namely The Calypso or The Yeti. These are items that are not our menu but are known only to the baristas and those that they tell. Hearing two people find out the other also orders an off-menu item is like hearing them find out they both share a favorite band.

Photos courtesy of Will Forsman