Generations Cafe Brews On

COLUMBIANA, Ohio – For the past six years, Generations Cafe has been a part of Rob and Lisa Schwartz’s life. But as co-owners since January 2018, it’s played a much larger role.

In 2013, the Schwartzes helped their son, Christian, and his wife purchase and renovate the space at 31 S. Main St.

“My husband and I found the space, helped them to renovate, but our son and his wife took the coffee part and ran with it,” Lisa Schwartz says. “We were behind the scenes helping them run a new business.”

After four years, Christian Schwartz and his wife decided to sell Generations, Schwartz says.

“They had three little kids, they were moving out west, and we really wanted to buy the coffee shop to keep it in the community,” she says. “It serves our community well and that’s what Rob and I like to do.”

Although the Schwartzes wanted to keep Generations going, they didn’t buy it outright from their son, opting instead to sell it to Matt Campbell, who owns Branch Street Coffee Roasters in Boardman. Christian Schwartz had helped Campbell open Branch Street, so they were friends, and when Campbell learned Christian was selling, “Matt was pretty interested in buying Generations,” Lisa Schwartz recalls.

Campbell renamed the coffee shop to Generations Coffee Lab, but didn’t change anything else about the shop, including the coffee, Schwartz says. However, the stress of operating two coffee shops became difficult for Campbell, who looked to put the coffee shop up for sale again after eight months.

After getting wind that Generations was closing with no buyer in the picture, the Schwartzes started to receive phone calls from residents, she says.

“People were actually calling us saying, ‘What are you going to do about this? We can’t let Generations close,’ ” Schwartz recalls. “So, my husband and I talked about it for a while and decided to go ahead and buy it from Matt.”

Generations Lab was renamed to Generations Cafe as the Schwartzes added breakfast and lunch items to the menu, she says. At the same time, All Good Things, a food shop in town, was closing.

“We thought we could pick up some of that traffic and meet the needs of the community in that way too,” Schwartz says. “So we did. We bought it, we called it Generations Cafe, we added the food menu, we changed a few things on the drink menu and moved forward in faith.”

So far, owning and operating a cafe has been a wonderful, although a challenging, experience, Lisa Schwartz says. With running a new business, there are many things to learn.

“We had never been in the coffee industry before,” Schwartz says. “We kind of navigated blindly.”

The Schwartzes had a lot of help from Branch Street’s Campbell, who provides all of Generations’ coffee and services all of the equipment, Schwartz says. Adding food to their menu and figuring out what Columbiana wanted for food and coffee was one of the challenges, she says.

They also needed to hone their barista skills. The Schwartzes had to learn how to pull a shot of espresso and how to dial it in so it tastes good, Schwartz says. They also needed to learn how to taste the sour and the bitterness of espresso and how to operate the equipment.

“One of the biggest things for me was learning my place and who I am here at Generations Cafe now that my son and his wife aren’t running it,” Schwartz says.

With so much going on in Columbiana, including at Generations, it makes Rob Schwartz a “huge fan” of the city he grew up in.

“It’s exciting to be a part of growth and Generations Cafe is a huge part of that,” he said. “We try to provide a space where other entrepreneurs, the young generation, the old generation — hence Generations — can come together and enjoy each other’s company.”

When she first walked into Generations Cafe, Marci Freedy, an assistant principal and special education coordinator at Columbiana Exempted Village School District, said it felt “very warm” to her.

“It’s a very friendly place to be,” says the Boardman resident, who has patronized Generations for about a year. “I’ve come to know and love the community.”

When Freedy heard about Generations from a coworker, she decided to stop in one morning on her daily commute, she says. Once she did, she has not looked back since, she says.

“[Lisa and Rob] have catered to the current environment and culture of the community,” Freedy says. “I think that’s what keeps people coming back. They’re very friendly and personable. It’s a casual family atmosphere.”

Generations Cafe is serving a great purpose in Columbiana with people being able to come to the cafe to share new ideas, Rob Schwartz says. Most of the renovations at Generations were completing things that had been started years ago. The bar was redone and Lisa decorated inside, he says.

“After getting that first year under our belts, the second year has been absolutely wonderful,” Lisa Schwartz adds. “We know our place in the community.”

Pictured above: Lisa and Rob Schwartz, co-owners of Generations Cafe.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.