Ben Spencer, the owner of TaZa Coffee 'n Creme (5047 Forest Hill Ave., 233-8646), is noticeably excited about his new project, and it's not just from the caffeine. Spencer and the TaZa crew took over the retail arm of Blanchard's Coffee Co. on Oct. 4, and, he says, "Every week has been better than the previous week."
The shop was formerly operated by Blanchard's, whose owner, David Blanchard, wanted to focus on the wholesale roasting aspect of the business. Spencer was just the guy to pick up the reins. A chemical engineer by trade, he entered the coffee world through his ministry serving the brew at Bon Air Baptist Church, which he enjoyed as "a medium to have good conversation."
Spencer's ministry led to his plan to run a shop featuring local products, or as he puts it, "to look for the best of Richmond and bring it to the local community." Currently, the shop's fare includes confections from Chocolates by Kelly (TaZa's downstairs neighbor), baked goods from La Sabrosita Bakery, bagels from Cupertino's and, of course, Blanchard's Coffee.
In addition to hometown treats, patrons benefit from extended hours and curbside service. TaZa now operates Monday to Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., a significant expansion on the shop's former schedule. TaZa is nested a floor above Blanchard's roasting operation in a small but open space with both bar and comfortable couch seating. Those in a hurry can call ahead and have their order delivered to their car.
Spencer emphasizes TaZa's commitment to the community, and he encourages patrons to share both positive and negative feedback. While we were there, a regular customer overheard Spencer's request and, heading down the stairs with his coffee, yelled out, "Don't change a thing, Ben."