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Community Highlights: Meet Matthew Campbell of Branch Street Coffee Roasters

Today we’d like to introduce you to Matthew Campbell. 

Hi Matthew, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
I was raised in New Jersey, not far from Asbury Park, which most people know because of the famous Stone Pony and Springsteen. After high school, I studied Radiography and Nuclear Medicine in college, which set me up for a career in medicine. I worked in the medical field for 14 years as a CT technologist and a Nuclear Medicine technologist. I spent the last 5 years of my career working full-time with cutting-edge PET/CT oncology scans. 

I met my wife Kristin in Youngstown while visiting a friend, and she moved to New Jersey with me. We lived there for several years and began a family. Not long after, I decided to leave medicine after realizing that Oncology was really an emotionally taxing field, and it was starting to affect me personally. I had a passion for coffee and spent a year as an apprentice roaster for Booskerdoo Coffee in Asbury Park while continuing to work full time to support the family. When that year was up, we decided to make the move back to Youngstown so we can live near Kristin’s family, and begin to open our business in the Mahoning Valley. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
There are always struggles, but we’ve taken those struggles as opportunities to improve our vision and better define what our goals are. Specifically, in the beginning, it was a bit of a challenge to introduce “specialty coffee” to the community. We were not the first roaster in the area, but the level of precision and high caliber of coffee that we were purchasing and roasting was different. Coffee and small roasters have been around for generations, but we were trying to redefine what a good cup of coffee was. We wanted to bring nationally recognized roasts to Youngstown and to put Branch Street on the map when it came to coffee destinations. 

I would also say that we are not alone in describing the last two years of life after COVID as a challenge. Everyone’s habits have changed, their coffee routines have changed, and our social dynamic has changed. In early 2020, it was hard to find a seat in our cafe during a normal day, and now most of our guests tend to order to-go. The numbers haven’t changed, but the vibe and feel of the cafe seems to be more mellow. It’s great for remote working, but some of the community vibe has waned. It’s gotten more alive lately, and we can’t wait to watch it come back to the community excitement kind of feel. 

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know?
Branch Street is a small cafe in the Boardman section of Youngstown. We are specialty coffee roasters, which means we find the best possible coffee from all over the world, and small batch roast it using careful control and leaning on our understanding of the science of roasting. Specialty coffee included the top 10% in quality of the world’s coffee production. We take that a step further and only roast the best selections from that top coffee. 

We have been recognized as the best cafe in Ohio by Food & Wine magazine. We have sent out 7 of our coffees for blind tasting by Coffee Review, and we have always scored 91+ points (not an easy task). One of our coffees scored #25 in the world for the year 2018. As of today, we are the only roaster in Mahoning Valley to have ever had their coffees nationally rated. 

We do all of this, but our main goal is to keep specialty coffee approachable. When you come into our cafe, you are warmly greeted, and our baristas can help to find a coffee you will love and answer any questions you may have. Specialty coffee can be an amazing experience without being pretentious, and we want to bridge that gap. 

Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
Most people see me (Matt) as the face of the business. I’m the one who is most frequently at the shop or in our production facility roasting. While I am the coffee nerd and lead roaster, Kristin is actually the one who does most of the business-type stuff. She has her MBA, so these things are right in her wheelhouse. Although you may see Matt at the store more frequently, Kristin is the one who deals with all the administrative tasks. It makes the perfect balance for our family and the business itself. 

Also, as much as I (Matt) love roasting, quality control, and the science of coffee, my real passion lies in the equipment and technology behind brewing. I actually love helping new cafes get started, outfitted with the right equipment, and trained to produce the best possible coffee. We’ve helped open and continue to support more than 9 cafes, and we are the equipment repair techs for dozens of cafes regionally. If you want to open a cafe, Branch Street can help you achieve those goals. 

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Image Credits

John Craig Design

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