Editor's note: Muncie Origins is a Ball State Daily News series profiling various businesses that originated in Muncie.
Whether you enjoy sugar with a side of coffee, a specialty latte or a plain cup of joe, coffee can be stronger than just a drink. For Frank and Lauren Reber, coffee is a unifying part of a community.
The Caffeinery, a coffee shop in downtown Muncie, was opened three years ago by the Rebers and has become a hotspot for residents and Ball State students alike.
“Our initial vision was to start a business in downtown Muncie that would have a positive impact on the community and act as an accompaniment to the already established businesses in the area,” Frank Reber said.
Their journey to starting The Caffeinery, however, did not begin immediately.
After high school, Lauren Reber went to Ivy Tech to take general education courses until she found the right path for her. While her passion was music and photography, her parents urged her to find something with a more “sustainable future.”
After some consideration, she decided to study business and entrepreneurship at Ball State.
However, her time there was short and she decided to start her own business in portrait and lifestyle photography.
Like Lauren Reber, Frank Reber’s passion played a role in his decisions after high school.
He also went to Ivy Tech to take general courses, but took a break with the intention of attending Ball State.
During that time, he explored his love for music and taught himself how to record as he went along.
“There’s just something about capturing tonal vibrations [notes] and preserving a moment in time that I find fascinating to the point of mild obsession,” Frank Reber said.
Frank Reber found the telecommunications program was exactly what he was looking for.
After graduating and completing an internship in Chicago, Frank Reber returned to Muncie and started recording artists again. He decided to pair with Lauren Reber and offer a photo shoot along with recording sessions..
The two continued their work for a few years, but after they got married, they decided that it was time to settle down and pave the way for a more consistent future.
“The freelance lifestyle that we were both living was just not cutting it for us.” Lauren Reber said.
Frank and Lauren Reber weren’t sure what they wanted to do, but they knew they wanted to enhance Muncie’s reputation.
“We wanted to do something that would make people miss Muncie,” Frank Reber said. “We also wanted to lead by example and inspire others by showing them that with hard work and careful planning, it’s possible to make the environment you want rather than move away.”
They spent time researching to figure out what type of business survives in small towns like Muncie, and found that often the most popular places were typically local coffee shops that fostered a welcoming, social environment.
With this information, the couple had a solid framework and vowed to put as much time as necessary into making their business a success.
“I wouldn’t have felt comfortable opening a coffee shop unless I took it upon myself to learn everything I could on the subject,” Lauren Reber said.
Over the course of two years they researched, attended a class to become certified baristas and developed their own training program for employees.
The amount of training and constant practice needed to consistently deliver “stellar” coffee was part of their decision, but it was also to build the social aspect of their business.
“The majority of our customers know our baristas on a first-name basis and it makes the experience more than just an anonymous transaction,” Frank Reber said.
While growing up, they were exposed to what it’s like to run a local, family business, which influences the decisions they make.
Lauren Reber's family owned The Music Room, and Frank Reber's family owns Reber Machine & Tool.
“I think that it did a lot to temper blind enthusiasm,” Frank Reber said. “It made us more aware of the amount of work and dedication that goes into making a small business work.”
This knowledge and their determination has fueled them throughout the process of constantly improving The Caffeinery.
Frank and Lauren Reber are also still committed to what they began after their college experience and have developed a way to balance their commitments.
Both Lauren and Frank Reber found having more than one job has helped them to learn when to say “no.”
“I remember having to learn the importance of saying no and prioritizing,” Lauren Reber said. “To me, my health is more important than anything. I have to remind myself of that.”
Now, they do their best to keep Sundays, when the shop is closed, strictly for rest.
They also feel that they have built up a relationship with their employees that takes some of the stress and worry away from the days that they can’t be at The Caffeinery.
“We consider our employees to be like family,” Frank Reber said. “Our people are one of the most important aspects of our business. We are a small and tight crew and we are all pretty close because of it.”
As The Caffeinery became more popular, it began to attract many students, as well as Muncie residents, and Lauren and Frank Reber find it rewarding to watch people enjoy themselves in their shop.
Lindsey Mecklenburg, a junior social work major, was referred to The Caffeinery by a friend. She prefers to visit local coffee shops as opposed to chains like Starbucks, and finds herself often returning for a Butterfinger or Thin Mint latte.
Frank and Lauren Reber’s hard work doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by customers like Mecklenburg. She feels they have created a welcoming atmosphere and great coffee that sets them apart from other coffee shops.
“The lattes that I have bought have been some of the best I have ever had,” Mecklenburg said.
Frank and Lauren Reber are always looking to improve and to foster a relationship with their customers. On The Caffeinery’s website, they have a blog where they talk about questions that have been asked frequently, coffee, and give a peek into their personal lives and experiences.
They hope that as they continue their work, they inspire other local entrepreneurs.
“There’s a lot of room for people to roll up their sleeves and create something unique and be part of this change,” Frank Reber said. “I feel that putting in the work and making a place better than you found it is far more rewarding than moving away to an already established community.”
For Frank and Lauren Reber, coffee and the local community are staples in their lives and they’re committed to making The Caffeinery a place that people love.