For each of us, every day begins as a blank slate, a way to get a “do-over” from the mistakes and stresses of yesterday and an opportunity to start fresh. And for many of us, the day starts with coffee. It all comes together at Blank Slate Coffee in Gahanna where you can snag your morning cup of joe from an all-aluminum Airstream RV.
Located in the Creekside district, Gahanna’s mixed-use gathering space of park, residence, and retail along Big Walnut Creek, Blank Slate Coffee is in the business of not only serving excellent coffee, but adding to the spirit of the community. Nestled within the remains of an old self-serve car wash, Blank Slate has provided a place for caffeine, imagination and togetherness to work their magic.
“We’ve definitely found that what we’re doing resonates with a lot of people here,” said Matt Roberson, owner/operator of Blank Slate Coffee. “Our motivation in choosing to operate at Creekside has less to do with a conscious business decision, and more to do with the fact that we live here. For us, being able to build community is our main motivator. So finding a niche outside of Gahanna just didn’t make sense.”
Coming to Columbus by way of Colorado, Roberson and his wife Kayla settled in Gahanna and hit the ground running. Not wishing to be idle bystanders in the community, The Robersons started making Blank Slate more than just great coffee. In the guts of the former car-wash where a few fingerprints of old pipes and spigots remain, Roberson, a former art teacher, had custom murals painted on sides of the stalls. He contributed to the collaborative designs, and created one entirely by himself.
Yes, it’s a world of food trucks, pop-ups, and generally mobile dining opportunities, but why an Airstream?
“One of the things we’re committed to as a business is using local Ohio products whenever we can,” said Roberson. “So when we had the opportunity to use a legacy Ohio product like the Airstream to house Blank Slate Coffee, it was the perfect fit. Our Airstream is from 1971 and was in Indianapolis when we found it.”
The Airstream is finished off with black-and-white checkered tiles, wooden chairs and a slim wooden countertop, a retro feel contrasting with the modern shine of the high-tech coffee brewing machines. The old car wash office has been refurbished into “The Hart Room” and serves as a place for patrons to kick back as they sip while they check out more artwork and an antique turntable. The Hart Room more generally functions as a place for open discussion, community, and general creativity and has housed community talks, live music, coffee and canvas nights, game nights, and pop-up events.
“We refer to it as, ‘A resource for the creative community,’ ” said Roberson. “We’ve been able to allow a few artists to do their first ‘gallery show’ in the space. It’s definitely a little rough so we don’t try to brand it as a legit gallery.”
This idea of taking ownership of your day (through caffeine or otherwise) and realizing what you want is very much a part of Blank Slate’s philosophy. What may seem like a heavy mission for a local coffee shop, Blank Slate achieves quite naturally. Interactive art such as “Before I die I want to…” board allows customers to question and communicate. If you’re not sure what it is that you exactly want to do before your death (a heavy question at 8 a.m.), the hundreds of responses from guests who have already rolled through and left their mark on the board can serve as inspiration. Other interactive art pieces make use of upcycled materials.
Although it occasionally moves to meet the crowds where they are, the bright silver Airstream is now a recognizable Gahanna landmark. While many people stay in their cars and take advantage of the large front window that doubles as a drive-thru, customers can also go inside to order coffee and even sit in the small countertop area while basking in the vintage glory of the refurbished recreational vehicle, replete with succulents and classic audio equipment for a completely Instagrammable and enlightening coffee experience.
From a variety of espresso options to different blends of tea ranging from Sunstone to Black Pearl, a common or not-so-common coffee or tea drinker should have no struggles finding something to suit their palate. Additionally, Blank Slate offers speciality coffee options like the lavender latte, or the popular cold-brew coffee.
Beyond coffee, tea, and esspero, the Blank Slate menu has Italian sodas as well as Italian cream sodas—carbonated water with a flavored simple syrup. A modest food selection of doughnuts, bagels, and muffins is also available.
Roberson’s blend of community enthusiasm, amazing product, and prudent use of space lent itself to the creation of Blank and Brush Block Parties this past summer. The Blank and Brush parties brought together local artists selling goods, a few food trucks, music, and was another success for the two-and-a-half-year-old small business.
“The block party events happened pretty organically, and we were really impressed with how quickly people jumped on board and were willing to contribute,” said Roberson. “I think that shows that not only does Gahanna need community, but they want it and are willing to work to make it happen. So that helps us feel like we’re on the right track.”