As downtown Cedarville expands, Taylor Minor and his family have played a significant role in its development.
Taylor – an entrepreneur, father of three and Iraq War veteran – is also the owner and operator of Stoney Creek Roasters.
From the start, Stoney Creek has been a family endeavour.
“My parents and I started it as (equal) owners,” Taylor said. “We bought the whole building in 2008 and in August opened the coffee shop.”
Taylor said when they started Stoney Creek, they financed it with credit cards and personal savings.
“The first year I worked about one hundred hours a week for a year straight,” Minor said. “I would open and close, so it was very taxing on family.”
His grandmother, Hilda Taylor, remembers that strain.
“I never saw him,” she said. “He worked a lot.”
The work paid off: her grandson only works mornings now, although his involvement with the business hasn’t diminished.
Minor said he likes going to other restaurants to figure out why they do what they do.
“Once you understand how it works, you can understand why it works,” Minor said. “Then you can translate those principles to your own business.”
Minor used a similar tactic soon after opening The Neapolitan in September 2012. Aiming for simplicity, he only offered one size and three flavors. After listening to feedback and observing successful business practices, Taylor developed more choices for customers.
The Neapolitan was the Minor family’s last-minute brainchild. They originally used the storefront as storage and warehouse space. When it came time for renovation, the Minors decided the space’s proximity to Main Street was too valuable to use as storage and chose to open an ice cream shop instead.
“We asked what business we could put in that would help diversify (the town), that would complement Stoney Creek, that doesn’t take up too much space and fits with what we do,” Minor said of the choice. “We sell a stupid amount of milkshakes, so we knew that people like ice cream. We decided, pivoted and two months later we opened.”
Minor and his family have been developing the building since Stoney Creek’s origin in 2008. Then it consisted only of the narrow strip from front door to back door. What Cedarville students see today emerged from the Minor family’s constant renovation.
“The building had a certain personality to it naturally,” Minor said. “We had the ability to play off the building’s own architecture.”
In their efforts to enhance the building’s personality, the Minors chipped plaster off the brick walls, put in a new floor and replaced the ceiling.
The Minors also designed the decor to feel welcoming. Taylor’s younger brother Levi attributes Stoney Creek’s atmosphere to the styling of his mother.
“Her style is decorating and creating a unique place,” Levi said. “She loves Americana. If you’re at our house, it kind of looks like this.”
Many Cedarville students appreciate the homey atmosphere.
“It is a nice environment to talk to people or to do work,” Cedarville junior Kate Ritchie said.
Taylor Minor said he and his parents chose authenticity over pizzazz.
“The business is an open book,” he said. “We are who we are and nothing else. We wanted a style that did not look fake and also that made people feel right at home. If you can develop something that looks natural in its setting, it will survive.”
Stoney Creek’s survival is due to more than the decor. It’s the Minor family’s hard work that has brought Stoney so far.
“I wasn’t privy to millions of dollars of extra cash sitting around, so we had to take it slow,” Taylor said. “We have been trying to remodel a little bit at a time and turn Stoney Creek into something that can generate revenue and be sustainable. We’ve got a 20-year vision.”
Now in the fifth year of that vision, Minor said Stoney is entering a new stage.
“In the last five years, we have grown a lot,” he said. “The next two to three years will be more of an optimization: honing business practices and procedures, fine-tuning the business machine, its ability to run on its own.”
As of now, nearly every element, from billing to ice-cream making, is kept up by Minor or a close relative. But Taylor and company intend to change direction.
After determining precisely what must be done to make Stoney Creek self-sufficient, Minor said he wants to make a framework that keeps the business functioning while promoting creativity.
“(A business owner’s) job is more to make a playground for people to operate in rather than making drones,” he said. “You set the equipment where you want it to be, you set the rules, and you let people be themselves. Nobody wants to be a drone, not having any creative license.”
The responsibility of synchronizing all of Stoney Creek’s moving parts ultimately falls to Minor.
“I have a certain amount of knowledge because I built everything,” he said. “I can hear the hum of the refrigerator and tell you what’s wrong with it.”
Minor and his parents planned ahead when it comes to consolidating Stoney Creek’s business procedures.
“We put a lot of effort into designing the business from the ground up,” he said, “so we don’t get down the road and find out that what we’ve made is impossible to consolidate.”
What does this mean for Stoney Creek’s future?
“I don’t know,” Minor said. “It could be simply just selling more coffee, getting more of a following or even opening up a store somewhere else, although that’s the least likely.”
Whatever happens, Minor said he knows it is going to take a lot of time and effort to think through and develop a plan of action.
“You are not going to get it right the first time,” he said. “You hope to get close to getting it right and then fix your mistakes. I know that the success of the business isn’t about the insignificant things. It’s about longevity. If you’ve got a good product, you keep it simple, and you will stick around.”
Nate Spanos is a junior music major and a reporter for Cedars. He posts witticisms to @kroovaijabe and poetry to lorddinosaur.wordpress.com.