His name might not be Henry, but Blake Stevens has the same vision to build community around coffee that the founder and namesake of O’Henry’s did more than 25 years ago. “I had the opportunity to work alongside Dr. Henry Bright in the roasting facility early on, and I saw his attention to detail and how he treated people,” Blake says. “He still comes in the stores today.” To learn more about the coffee shop’s legacy and where it’s headed, we chatted with Blake just after he started running the business.
When did you and O’Henry’s first “meet”?
In 1996 I started with O’Henry’s on 18th Street when I was a student at Samford and worked there through 2001. It was the only O’Henry’s at the time and the first coffee house in Birmingham really, and everyone knew everybody. I remember building great relationships with the employees. We had such a tight team. Fast forward almost 25 years, and that’s what it continues to be. All the employees respect each other, and it’s a neat environment to learn from each other.
In 2001 I was recruited to Starbuck’s and worked there for 14 years. I ended up in Louisiana with Starbuck’s but wanted to get back home. I moved back to Birmingham about four years ago with a staffing company and kept in touch with the previous O’Henry’s owner Randy Adamy. One thing led to another, and I was able to purchase the company.
Can you tell us some about the coffee shop’s history?
In 1993 Dr. Henry Bright wanted to have a community coffee shop, and the next owners Randy and Mary Adamy came in and built upon that legacy. My charge is not to create something different or new but continue to add to that story and legacy. When Randy and I started talking about the ownership opportunity, it was an easy conversation because we knew each other and understood what O’Henry’s stood for.
What might not know about the coffee brand?
We roast our coffee with the same passion and commitment that Dr. Bright had, and we still have some of those roast profiles. We roast in West Homewood, and some of the other coffee houses in town use our coffee with private label. We get beans from all over coffee growing regions from Kenya to Costa Rica to Brazil, and last year we were able to purchase a whole crop from a farmer in Columbia. We also have two license locations: one at Samford and one at Protective Life.
What’s your go-to order?
I love our African Classic and our Costa Rican Dark coffees, and our lighter side we have an Ethiopian. I love ice coffee too. On the food menu, our morning muffin and breakfast panini with bacon egg and cheese are so good and very popular.
What will we see from O’Henry’s going forward?
I see roasting and wholesale operations growth opportunities in our brand as well as in retail locations and offices. We are opening in Hoover at Stadium Trace at the end of January, and we will look for other communities we can serve. O’Henry’s will continue to be a family-owned business too. My wife and I are in this together, and our two kids. We want to put people first and take care of our team and the folks we represent. We want folks here who love what they do and live with a purpose.