With a substantial following, he opened his shop and roastery in the alley next to Wabash Station, behind Artlandish Gallery and Ernie’s Café in November of 2013. He has since trained “a small, but dedicated staff,” he said. Among Fretboard’s local regulars are the folks who live and work in the North Village Arts District. His son, Everett, 6 years old, and daughter, Willow, 10 months—are regular visitors, though for now they come more for the company and atmosphere than for the coffee.
As the guitar-themed décor and shop title might indicate, Elman also loves music. In fact, he makes sure each bag of beans includes a card declaring what song or album was playing while the coffee was roasting. Dave and Julie also write music together, and perform at the shop. On the first Friday of each month, he invites musicians to play at Fretboard, and the shop hosts an Open Mic night every third Friday of the Month.
Still, true to the business’ roots, Elman reserves his Saturday mornings for the Columbia Farmers Market, where he continues to brew hot French press coffee. He brings bags of whole-bean coffee—roasted within days of coming to the market—and usually has jugs of their signature low-acid cold brew.
In the summer of 2015, the Fretboard crew even served honey lavender lemonade that used local honey and organic lemons from Clover’s Natural Market.
Elman looks forward to market days, he said, because he likes to engage with both customers and the farmers. “We enjoy getting to know customers who may not make it downtown to our shop but are regulars every week at the farmer’s market.” Also, market time also allows for more “intimate conversations about our coffee, our roasting style, and sourcing,” he said.
“It is important to us that the beans are all ethically sourced” from farms and co-ops where workers are treated well, paid a fair and living wage, and where farms are open to our importers inspecting them to ensure these ethical practices. “Additionally, all of our coffees are produced without harmful chemicals or pesticides. Even our decaffeinated coffee is decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Process, which is 100-percent chemical free.”
In addition to the North Village Arts District and the Columbia Farmers Market, Fretboard Coffee is also served or sold by the bag at Harold’s Doughnuts, both Clover’s Natural Market locations, Lucky’s Market, the Hy-Vees on West Broadway and Nifong in the natural market section, Cafe Berlin, Barred Owl Butcher & Table, Meriwether Cafe, Papa Cat Cafe, Nourish, Bank of Missouri and Callaway Bank.
If you want to learn more about Fretboard, visit the website at fretboardcoffee.com. A list of their wholesale customers can be found here: fretboardcoffee.com/wholesale.