For those of you that have been traveling the Joe in the YO Coffee Trail – and for those that are just now joining us – welcome to our new blog series called “Meet the Roasters.” Over the next few weeks, we’ll introduce you to the owners of three local coffee shops that actually source their own beans and roast them in-house. We sat down with some of these coffee connoisseurs to get the inside scoop on their backgrounds, their shops and their customers.
This week features an interview with Joe Sylvester, owner of High Octane Coffee, a 1950s service garage-inspired shop located in Canfield.
From Racing to Roasting
While Joe Sylvester might be known for some delicious coffee, he may be better known for his successful racing career. Since 2006, Joe has had a successful career in monster truck competitions and racing, and even secured the Guinness World Record for Longest Monster Truck Jump (237 feet). So, why did Joe transition from racing to owning a coffee shop?
Q. Why did you enter the coffee business?
A. I’ve raced my whole life; I’ve traveled the whole world. And through all the traveling that I’ve done, I’ve had to be awake for crazy hours, with late stays at hotels and waking up in the morning for live interviews. Because of this schedule, coffee became a big part of my daily routine. I would get coffee from anywhere- diners, gas stations- until one day I actually had specialty, artisan-roasted coffee and was mind-blown because it tasted so much better than what I was used to. After this, I developed a stronger passion for coffee and decided that I wanted to start a business that I could grow for the rest of my life.
What Makes High Octane Unique?
From coffee named “Gasoline Alley” to shiny car parts hanging from the walls, High Octane has definitely done a good job at not blending in with the average coffee shop. Despite its racing roots, what else makes High Octane stand out?
Q. How does High Octane stand out from other local coffee shops?
A. I knew that I wanted to offer not just good coffee, but a completely unique experience that gives a different vibe and atmosphere. We host car shows at High Octane, we play rock music on the radio and all of our marketing is a little bit more edgy.
Q. Can you explain what your roasting process entails?
A. We roast eight different coffee beans from places like Colombia, El Salvador, Indonesia, Guatemala and Mexico. Our roaster has the capability of roasting 640 pounds per day, but we typically roast 60-200 pounds of coffee beans each week for High Octane.
Q. What is your most popular drink? What special items do you offer?
A. Overall, people like iced lattes, everyone seems to have their own flavor that they like. The Buckeye Outlaw is probably our number one seller and one of my favorites. We also make handspun, old diner-style milkshakes.
What Fuels High Octane
While it’s no surprise that coffee keeps most YO locals running, we wondered what fuels High Octane. Between their loyal customers and personable baristas, this shop runs on more than just coffee.
Q. Can you describe the people that typically come to High Octane?
A. Guys with grease under their fingernails, those are the kind of guys that like to come here because they’re comfortable here. In general, we have a lot of regulars and locals, but because of my racing career we also get visitors from out of town that want to see High Octane.
Q. We believe that coffee is hospitable. How does High Octane and its baristas aid in the hospitality of its community?
A. I don’t stress so much that our baristas’ drinks are perfect. Instead, the biggest thing for us is attitude and the general way that we project ourselves to customers. It’s more important that our baristas have a positive attitude and personality- that’s what gets people to come back.
Down the Road
Boardman locals will be happy to hear Joe’s recent focus for High Octane’s future!
Q. What are your plans and goals for High Octane?
A. We’re hoping to have our new Boardman location open by next month. Other than that, I have no desire to own more than one store. I want to have one store as the main, flagship location and then franchise the rest, including the Boardman store.
While we did our best to capture the essence of High Octane, you will have to pay Joe and his baristas a visit if you want to truly experience one of the most unique coffee shops in the Youngstown area! To join the Joe in the YO Coffee Trail, visit this page for your passport and a list of participating locations. To learn more about things to do and see in the Youngstown area, check out the Mahoning County Convention & Visitors Bureau website and follow @YoungstownLive on social media!
High Octane Website: https://high-octane-coffee-company.myshopify.com/
High Octane Insta: @highoctanecoffee
High Octane Twitter: @gethighoctane
Joe Sylvester Insta & Twitter: @joesylvester8