If the fresh-roasted beans and the velvety drinks do not draw one into Innkeeper’s Fresh Roasted Coffee in Galesburg, Ill., the array of pastries and candies will certainly do the trick.
Innkeeper’s has been in business in Galesburg since 1998, but there is more to Innkeeper’s than just coffee and treats.
Founder Johan Ewalt and his partner Mike Bond did not expect the store to become as successful as it has been.
“[We] thought it would be a part-time job,” Ewalt said. “Our wish was that it would be a world class coffee house.”
Ewalt, a native of Galesburg, was not always an entrepreneur, but he became interested in the food industry when he started working at Calico Cat on Seminary Street at the age of 16.
“It was the coolest place in the world at the time,” he said.
When he was 23, Ewalt packed his suitcase and headed to Washington, D.C., where he worked in management in upscale restaurants. In 1986, however, he decided it was time for a “total life change” and moved back to Galesburg to pursue a different career.
Coffee has always been a passion of Ewalt’s and after helping Bond’s brother set up a store in Georgia that had a coffee roaster, he decided he would create a similar store in Galesburg. Coffee itself was Ewalt’s true influence.
“I love the product,” he said as he took a sip of his own cup. “I love the experience of really fresh quality coffee and the idea of having the roaster in the shop where customers could see how it was made.”
The original Innkeeper’s was in a small Victorian storefront and sold whole bean coffee in bags. As it grew in customers and popularity, Ewalt and Bond chose to expand and in 2003 built their own store on the corner of Seminary and Ferris streets.
Ewalt has a passion for customer service.
“We tried to do things customers asked for,” he said. “Customers wanted a lunch menu, so we got a lunch menu. They wanted us to get a drive-thru, so we got a drive-thru. People come in every day and need something different.”
Having run Innkeeper’s for more than 10 years, Ewalt has come in contact with all kinds of people and situations, but nothing surprises him more than the regular customers.
“The most surprising thing is how many people come through several times a day,” he said. “The support and passion is really honoring. We have become an iconic business.”
Although the store has received several renovations recently, such as new chairs and tables imported from France, Ewalt would not mind seeing a few more changes.
“It would be great if we had resources to be open in the evening and have beer and wine served, but who knows what will happen.We are always looking at what we can do to keep things fresh.”
Ewalt enjoys other aspects of life, including the “glitz and glamour” not seen in Galesburg. Ewalt and Bond often vacation in Las Vegas and lately have added cruise ships to their vacation list. Additionally, Ewalt spends time gardening, antiquing, reading spiritual books and wining and dining.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Innkeeper’s was founded in the 1980s. We apologize for this error.