Coffee shop has earned local, regional and national accolades; owner has traveled the world to bring the best in coffee back home to Northeast Ohio.
It doesn’t look like Alex Haas will need to implement his fallback plan after all.
Alex left Canton to earn degrees in psychology and molecular genetics at the University of Rochester in Rochester, N.Y., and the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
A friend encouraged him to take a chance by opening his own business that focused on a product he was truly passionate about — coffee — in a place he called home — Canton.
Alex opened Muggswigz Coffee & Tea Co. at 137 Walnut Ave. NE in 2003.
“I’m good at a lot of things,” Alex said. “But I’m not really great at anything. When you start your own business, you definitely need to be good at a lot of things.”
Alex followed in the footsteps of his father, Raymond, who was an entrepreneur in the industrial power field.
“I figured I’d give this a try,” Alex said. “If I failed, I could always get a job in my field.”
Sixteen years later, things have worked out quite well for Alex. Muggswigz’s first location was successful, so two additional locations were opened at 5854 Fulton Drive NW in Jackson Township and at 3452 Manchester Road in the Portage Lakes area.
Muggswigz was named one of the “10 Best Coffeehouses in the USA” by USA Today in 2014, ranking alongside coffee shops from Seattle to Washington, D.C.
Muggswigz also has been a semi-finalist several times in the “America’s Best Coffeehouses” and “America’s Best Espresso” competitions. The coffeeshop also earned the highest score in Ohio on Kenneth Davids’ Coffee Review and was named “Best Coffeeshop” by About magazine.
Alex said products and people truly make Muggswigz stand out from the crowd.
Muggswigz sources, roasts, blends and serves some of the finest coffees and teas in Ohio. Alex even developed a personal relationship with a coffee farmer in Colombia and placed an order for 100 percent of the farmer’s coffee.
While the idea of Free-Trade coffee is a good one on the surface, Alex said it’s challenging for small coffee farmers to comply.
“We value the importance of fairness and quality at each step of the process — from seed to cup,” he said. “Many small farmers can’t afford the Fair-Trade designation, so Muggswigz helps by buying direct.”
The bags of coffee beans in the Walnut Ave. location aren’t just for show.
“Some people think these are just props,” Alex said. “But we actually roast our own coffee beans every day.”
Freshness is vital. Customers can buy freshly roasted coffee beans to take home. But after 10 days, these beans are reduced to half price for rapid consumption.
Muggswigz is not a top-heavy organization. There’s no layer of management between Alex and the baristas.
“Being a barista can become a career at Muggswigz,” said Alex. “We have a structure in place to help baristas continue moving up in position and pay. You can have a family, own a home and go on vacations.”
Alex said no machine can make coffee like a well-trained barista. At Muggswigz, barista levels include trainee, novice, trained, skilled, expert, artisan and master. Training is continuous.
Alex is a master barista. His wife, Morgan, is an expert barista. Anthony Habart and Sean Hreha are skilled baristas, and Jeremy Day is a trained barista. Anthony and Jeremy both recently competed in “America’s Best Cold Brew” in New York City. Jim Minisall is operations manager.
The entire team shares Alex’s passion for making memorable experiences at Muggswigz.
“We realize coming into a coffeeshop can be sort of intimidating,” he said. “But we want to welcome everyone into our delicious world. Don’t be afraid to stop in. There’s a lot we still don’t know. We enjoy helping our guests discover coffee.”
According to Alex, the most important way Muggswigz gives back to the community is by providing an outlet for local talent. Muggswigz holds open mic nights every Tuesday and displays local artists’ work. The coffeeshop also makes donations to several local organizations including the Canton Ballet, the Canton City School District, the Canton McKinley Alumni Association and the Jackson School for the Arts, to name a few.
There’s little doubt that Muggswigz will continue to inspire memorable moments.
And, as long as Muggswigz continues to go out of its way to provide fresh and flavorful coffee, tea and other products, there’s no doubt Canton and Stark County customers — and those from other areas — will keep coming back.