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Why Kaldi’s Coffee closed their Battlefield location

Kaldi’s Coffee, a St. Louis-owned company, has established itself as a reliable name on the coffee scene in the Springfield area.  They established themselves squarely in the south side coffee community several years ago with a spacious and well-appointed retail location in a high-end shopping center on Battlefield Road.  In their time at that location, they have offered a broad food menu, pastries, and a full coffee menu including single origin drip coffees, flavored coffees, and gourmet espresso drinks.  On top of that, they carried whole bean coffees roasted at the Kaldi’s roasterie based in the St. Louis area for bulk purchase.   Over time, Kaldi’s also set up shop on the Missouri State University campus with a small kiosk at the university library and another larger site at the student union.

A few weeks ago, I got word from several independent sources that it appeared that Kaldi’s was preparing to close the main Battlefield location, which to most people in the 417 area served as the central Springfield campus for all things Kaldi’s.  An all-staff meeting was scheduled for the evening of August 12, and based on the word running around, that Kaldi’s store would probably never open again.   That morning, I stocked up on whole bean Kaldi’s roasts just in case, and sure enough, the next morning, a sign was posted on the door that the Battlefield Kaldi’s location was now closed.  What amazed me was that none of my contacts at Kaldi’s Springfield or St. Louis would confirm to me what was going on.

The next morning, I swung by the Kaldi’s location on Battlefield to take to confirm they were closed and to take a photo of the sign explaining the closure.  While there, Josh Ferguson, one of the owners of Kaldi’s, came out the side door, introduced himself, and walked me through the whole decision to close the main Kaldi’s Coffee location in Springfield.

I’d known for a few months that the Kaldi’s management was not thrilled with the sales numbers at the Battlefield location, particularly the food to drink ratio of sales.  Kaldi’s has worked hard at their St. Louis locations to become known as a coffee company, not just another cafe with sandwiches that just happens to serve coffee.  I met a few months ago with Mike (North) Marquard, who is one of the trainers from St. Louis, and he had told me that the Battlefield location’s floor plan was based on the old Kaldi’s location but that most of their locations had been updated to have a much more coffee-focused floor plan.  He’d told me then that in an attempt to shift the sales to the coffee side of the ledger, there were planning on updating the Battlefield location as well in an attempt to bring the store up to par with the other Kaldi’s locations.  In my talk with Josh, he confirmed that had been their concern and their ultimate goal with the Battlefield location.

On the way to moving this ahead at the Battlefield Kaldi’s, things ran into a rut, though.  As the lease at the location was coming up for renewal, the landlord apparently wasn’t very open to negotiations.  Josh told me that they had planned on moving ahead with the remodel of the Battlefield location at a signficant expense, but that when the landlord wasn’t willing to work with them to come to a new lease agreement with which they could all be satisified, it put them in a spot of having to decide how important this Springfield store was to them.  He made it clear that he wasn’t blaming the landlord for the closing, but he said that the landlord piece of the puzzle was just another element that arose that was stacked against the Battlefield Kaldi’s location.  Josh said that ultimately they decided there were too many factors working against that location, so they decided to close the store.

In my opinion, as the Kaldi’s coffee roasting operation has ramped up over the past few years and improved its quality, Kaldi’s had become the best coffee on the south side of Springfield.  I asked Josh where he thought the dedicated Kaldi’s customers would go.  He smiled and said, “That’s a very good question.”  While he noted that he expected the true coffee lovers would migrate to The Coffee Ethic downtown, we both agreed that Park Central Square was quite a drive for some of the more south side customers.  I asked him whether his less travel-inclined customers would migrate more toward Panera on Battlefield due to its cafe feel, and he acknowledged that may be the case, or they might move further north or further south to the two Starbucks locations within driving distance up and down Campbell.

Josh acknowledged that they really liked Springfield, and they saw room for possibly coming back into the Springfield market in 4 or 5 years, but that in the near future, their presence would be limited to the Missouri State kiosks at the student union and the library.  I’ve talked to a now-former employee from Kaldi’s who noted that Kaldi’s moved three of the Battlefield employees to the MSU locations.  At least one other employee has shifted to the newly opened Dancing Mule Coffee on Glenstone south of Sunshine.

In the end, it’s sad that Kaldi’s on Battlefield closed.  It was an excellent coffee cafe with good food and excellent baked goods.  Their roasterie provided a solid selection of single origin and flavored coffees that improved over the years, and in the  past couple weeks, I’ve enjoyed the last of the whole bean purchases I made that last day the Kaldi’s Battlefield location was open.

If you were  a regular Kaldi’s customer, I’d be interested in hearing what coffee shop you ended up giving your business to after Kaldi’s closed.