WILLIAMSBURG — In just one year, Column 15 has become a staple of the Williamsburg community.
When co-founders James Kroll and Victoria Goldsby opened their own coffee venture that specializes in nitro cold brew, they were starting from scratch to get a space up and running.
The two William & Mary (W&M) alumni had hoped to open up the coffee shop several years ago, but ran into unexpected obstacles, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve always said, no matter what you try to do when you’re starting a business, it’s always going to cost twice as much as you expect it to cost, and take twice as long as you expect it to take,” Kroll said.
Column 15 quickly became a popular business among locals, serving their products at farmers markets and getting their name out into the public, sometimes attending between seven and nine farmers markets in a weekend.
Goldsby recounted that one business said of Column 15, “We’re not sure who they are, but we know that they’re young and aggressive.”
“We were like, ‘We’ll take that as a compliment,’” Goldsby said.
After a two-and-a-half-year effort, the duo’s perseverance paid off.
In May 2021, they held the grand opening of their first permanent location at 701 Merrimac Trail in James-York Plaza, just a few doors down from their to-go coffee bar, which Kroll said allowed them to have an already established small baseline of regular customers.
A year later, Column 15 has grown into a popular local coffee spot that has introduced new and innovative ideas to the community.
“We’re always coming up with new stuff,” Kroll said. “Pretty regularly, we’ll stumble across something that’s accidentally explosive.”
One example of this was Goldsby’s idea for the coffee ice cube, which started out as an experiment, but quickly became a hit. Kroll’s idea to make the ice sphere shaped, like a whiskey ball, is what set them apart.
“It’s wild to us how popular that became,” Kroll said.
Another unexpected hit — the coffee flights.
“Somebody made a TikTok about the flights and we went from every once in a while doing a flight, to one day we did 68 flights,” Kroll said. “We do fun stuff all the time. It’s just every once in a while, one of those things blows up.”
The duo’s go-getter attitudes were present well before they started their business. Before opening Column 15, Goldsby and Kroll both worked long hours in their full-time jobs, with Kroll working in digital marketing and Goldsby in the campaign world.
“We kind of came to the realization that if we put this much effort into other people’s businesses and having all these accomplishments, why can’t we do it for our own?” Goldsby said.
Since opening their LLC, Goldsby and Kroll have put all their energy into their business, putting in 60-80 hours a week.
What started out as four people, including operations, wholesale and the marketing team — Cassidy Eissing and Brittany Wyatt, who are now both part-owners — has since become a staff of nearly 20.
The coffeehouse features an in-house roasting and brewing area, a coffee bar, and a trendy lounge where community members and high school and college students alike can be found studying or socializing.
Branded as “the science of good coffee,” Column 15’s aesthetic combines scientific, industrial and artsy, Kroll said.
This weekend, the business will celebrate its one-year anniversary.
Starting at 7 a.m. on Sunday, May 15, Column 15 will give out a free drink to any customer who comes in with a loyalty card that has one or more stamps. Those who come in with a fully-stamped card will get two free beverages.
They will also be accepting loyalty cards from any coffee shop in Virginia as a way to attract new coffee lovers.
Local food truck Moto Crepes will also be on the scene in the morning.
Additionally, Column 15 will introduce its new Affogato beverage in a collaboration with its Edge District neighbor Shoofly Dairy Bar, 7127 Merrimac Trail. The Affogato features scoops of Shoofly ice cream with an espresso shot.
Since its opening, Column 15 has participated in a number of cross-promotions and collaborations with other local businesses in the Edge District.
“When a neighbor of ours has an accomplishment, it feels like everybody’s accomplishment, because we’re all trying to bring up this space together,” Goldsby said.”
Looking toward the future, Kroll and Goldsby hope to expand their wholesale to be able to supply more stores.
Currently, their coffee can be found at select Harris Teeter locations in Maryland and Earth Fare in Williamsburg.
Column 15 is also in the process of receiving its beer and wine license, which the co-founders are expecting to happen within the next few months.
Additionally, Kroll said that they hope to offer tours soon to give people the chance to come in and see the entire roasting process from start to finish.
“That’s something that not only appeals to locals, but also as a potential tourism draw,” Kroll said. “Making it an immersive experience and give the industrial, scientific side of Column 15.”
For more information about Column 15, visit its website.