Hubbard & Cravens finds niche in Carmel City Center

Hubbard Cravens has made a triumphant return to Carmel.

Oh, you didn’t know they were here before?

Several years ago, they opened a small coffee shop at a roundabout interchange at 131st Street and Hazel Dell Parkway. And things seemed to be doing well.

“We enjoyed being here, but then Starbucks came and set up shop across the street with a drive-thru, and that was the end of that,” said Kristin Richards, district manager for the 21-year-old company that imports and roasts high-end coffee and tea for a loyal following in Central Indiana.

Hazel Dell, of course, is very driver-friendly. But at the new location — Carmel City Center — the traffic will be much more two-wheel and pedestrian, thanks to the Monon Trail and a number of apartments and condos within walking distance.

“Ideally, we like to go into neighborhoods. That is where we are most successful,” said Richards. “The store at 49th and Penn (near) Broad Ripple is completely supported by regulars.

“We feel like we can do that same thing here. And we have spectacular views with The Palladium and all the theaters around.”

Indeed, the new Hubbard Cravens has a nice corner location alongside the City Center parking deck, from which you can see views of the whole Center for the Performing Arts, the trail, and Carmel’s city hall complex to the south.

The new place seats 70 on the inside, with 40 more on an outdoor patio.

In addition to the coffee — and the variety of ways they can prepare a cup — this location will be the company’s first to offer beer, wine, a juice bar, a smoothie bar and a full kitchen menu.

I tried a cappucino ($3.55) and a pour-over coffee ($3) and found them to be pretty close to perfect. They grind their coffee fresh and measure it to a tee for the pour-over. They also offer a line of fresh-roasted beans for sale by the bag (average prices are $10-$16).

On the menu, you can also order hot or cold teas, hot chocolate, chai lattes and a few soft drinks. And if you’re serious about your water, there’s a $5 bottle of Aqua Panna.

If you’re into dining, there are salads, flatbreads, artisan baguette sandwiches — with ingredients originating from local sources, like meats from The Smoking Goose and cheeses from Traders Point.

Last week, after a Carmel Tweet-up hosted by Hubbard Cravens, we sat down with Richards for a little QA.

Q. How does this location differ from others?

A. Size-wise, this is definitely our largest. It is also a completely new concept for us. We have taken all the coffee, tea and specialty drinks we are known for and added premium wines, craft beers, a juice bar and smoothie bar. As well as a menu of light fare.

Q. Why do that? And why here in Carmel?

A. It just seemed like the right time to branch out of our comfort zone of coffee and capitalize on the Palladium traffic as well as be a neighborhood hub, no matter what time of the day it is. With the wine and beer, we thought it would make it more attractive for visitors to The Palladium and other theaters. After the show, they can come over for a glass of wine, a flatbread or cheese plate. Or maybe an espresso and dessert.

Q. You are open until 11 p.m. on most nights. What’s driving the trend of extending coffee shops into late-night beer and wine spots?

A. The whole idea behind coffee shops is that it’s a place to hang out, a place to meet and get a drink and socialize. It just makes sense to take that same feeling and move it into the evening hours. To capitalize on being the place to be, no matter the time of day.

Q. And people will drink coffee that late?

A. So far, we have not seen a bunch. It’s been mostly the beer and wine. Our regular drip coffee ends around noon, but we can always do pour-overs and press-pot coffees.

Q. What’s next for Hubbard Cravens? More expansion?

A. Our next store will actually be in San Diego, probably in the fall, in a building that is very much like this with a mix of retail and residential.

Q. What about locally?

A. We are looking at quite a few opportunities in Downtown Indianapolis. We want a stand-alone presence Downtown. We have our four IU Health locations, but we want to do something, possibly like this, Downtown.

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