Wm. Van’s Coffee House is one of four businesses in Springfield run by the Conn family, with Karen and Court steering the ship, under Conn’s Hospitality Group. Set in an historic home in the downtown area it offers visitors a unique experience complete with food and an assortment of drinks. Eighteen21.com spoke with the family to find out more about why they opened this neat little coffee house.
What made you decide to open a coffee house?
All our businesses are borne of things we love: it was a natural fit that the Maisenbacher House became a sanctuary for great coffee.
Prior to opening Wm. Van’s, what did the family know about running a coffee shop or roasting coffee?
Court grew up in his father’s diners and restaurants, so we were quite familiar with coffee service - just not in the new era of equipment and technology. Coffee roasting provided a great learning experience. We explored blends versus single source, different roasting techniques employed by different vendors, and all the cutting-edge stuff that blends the old-world techniques with new technological advances.
Why did you decide to take a café route?
Since we were going to hold regular hours well past the afternoon, we felt it necessary to provide more substantial food offerings.
Where does the passion for knowing where your produce originates, and how it has been grown, stem from?
We believe in supporting small and local businesses, and that goes hand-in-hand with knowing our products. Although not all of our goods can be sourced locally at all times we do what we can to strengthen our community as a whole, which extends naturally to each provider and supplier we use.
What makes Wm. Van’s unique?
We think a combination of factors create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a historic building with ties to Lincoln - and you can literally see Lincoln’s home from our location. We are open seven days a week with regular hours, which isn’t always the case for coffee houses. We offer a wide variety of caffeinated products to keep people moving throughout the day, but also offer caffeine-free teas, rejuvenating sport tea, and a host of foods to keep people happy. Furthermore, our team may be coffee nerds, but they’re not coffee snobs, which makes the environment a welcome-all for visitors and regulars alike.
Where do you Wm. Van’s in the future?
The building has held up for over 150 years. We hope that we can maintain it for another 150 years, ideally with Wm. Van’s still in operation. Our company’s motto is ‘preserving history through hospitality’ and we believe offering quality goods that people enjoy is the first step towards accomplishing this. At the moment, we don’t have plans for expansion outside of our current space, but one never knows where the next historic property needing preservation will arise - and whether or not it’s a great fit for a second Wm. Van’s.
Are there any events or seasonal offerings we should know about?
We have seasonal offerings that rotate through the year, and although we aren’t able to host major events due to our space limitations, we try to remain a hub of smaller-group activities. Currently, we are working on a batch of mulled cider to help warm people’s bones as the temperatures drop. We started offering a few adult beverages as well.
Photo Credits: Conn’s Hospitality Group