On December 1st, 2021, the Stefanoni family bought the community and campus favorite spot, Root Coffeehouse. After owning it for two months, the Stefanonis have big plans to keep Root going and to build off of its success with ideas for the future.
Brad and Andra Stefanoni bought Root coffeehouse from the Brumbaugh family late last year. The Stefanoni family has had a very close connection with the Brumbaugh family, who started Root in the fall of 2015. The family would frequent the quaint coffee shop as customers, including both of their sons, who were friends with the Brumbaugh’s son Derek. There was a close connection between the Brumbaughs and the Stefanonis, as Andra had reported on Root first moving into Block 22 in 2017.Both were involved with, and excited for the potential of the new project. Later in 2021, The Brumbaughs sought to sell Root to a local family who cared about the community and who was going to build on what they started without changing what they had already done too dramatically. The Stefanonis seemed like a perfect fit to keep the success of Root thriving for years to come.
“Growing up here, we’ve always been involved with the community in different ways, we’ve been volunteers, we’ve been parents,” Andra said. “But as small business owners, it allows us to be involved in the community in a different way. We are connecting with different people, and we are able to give back to the community in a different way than we have ever been able to give before. A coffeehouse is such a diverse place. The demographic is everybody. You have older retired folks who meet here to visit, and to play cards and have coffee. You have young people coming in to do studying or meet after school to get a quick snack, you have couples who might come by for a date, and it’s just such a diverse demographic that we serve- and that’s really cool.”
To keep Root running at top speed, Andra and Brad work together to create a great environment for every customer who comes in. Brad is the day-to-day head of running Root and serving customers morning to night. Brad works on inventory, purchasing, and the business side of things. Andra works at the university during the day, so her focus is on marketing, event planning, communications, and social media outreach. They work as a dynamic duo to keep Root thriving for the community to enjoy.
“Whether its customers coming in, or our baristas that work here, that overall engagement is really satisfying because we get to see a lot of regulars that are here every other day or every day, but we also get to see a lot of new people, students, and it’s a very dynamic atmosphere- but the human component is one of the things that we really like,” Brad said.
Andra detailed some of their future goals for Root, as well as what the family is excited to accomplish in the future.
“We are working on a bit of a refresh with our consignment artists by installing some new displays in the next few weeks to better highlight their merchandise, and merchandise of our own that we plan to sell soon. We are working to provide some space for artists for exhibits and workshops down the road as well. We are also currently working on expanding our crepe offerings to please a range of tastes including savory crepes, which are coming soon, and to add a few snacks and grab and go items to our menu this spring as well. We also have plans that are in the works for party and event rental.”
In addition to being thankful for all the support they have received so far, and their barista’s positivity and hard work, Brad noted that the family is thankful for community support in this transitional process of acquiring Root.
“There is no way we could’ve done this without the support of the community, and also other local and small business owners in the community that offered assistance and advice,” Brad said. “It’s been very good and humbling, and hopefully someday we will be able to reciprocate.”
To start, Root’s history goes back to the very first days of Pittsburg. The coffee shop resides on the first floor of one of the oldest buildings in downtown Pittsburg, once known as the Opera House Hotel. “We both love history.” said Andra Stefanoni, co-owner of Root. “We were married in Hotel Stilwell, which is another of Pittsburg’s most historic buildings. And we were so excited that after driving past these buildings for years and seeing them fall into disrepair and disuse- that they have been brought back to life and are now part of a vibrant downtown.”
Although owning Root has brought so much joy to Andra and Brad, they have also faced some difficulties. One of their biggest hardships has been difficulties from a staffing standpoint. With a need to employ so many baristas, while also needing to work around Covid-19 and recognizing the needs of the baristas has been a tough part of owning Root. As well as difficulties with logistical scheduling being universal right now, the Stefanonis are also wanting to start events, but these had to be put on pause from a safety standpoint. But this doesn’t mean that they are gone forever- some events planned for the upcoming season in the spring and summer are to have open mic nights, as well as jazz nights to bring in some new faces and new experiences.
Despite the difficulties being faced, and highlights of owning Root so far- the community reception has been great, according to Brad. “Fortunately we have had some constructive feedback, not from a negative standpoint, but things like ‘hey have you thought about this?’ … Those are things that we like to hear about- on what our customers want. Some of those things are very attainable and some are more long-term goals, but those are the things we want to hear. We want to know what people want in addition to what we have now. It’s been great to have ideas tossed our way.”