WeHeart OTR Interview: Bob Bonder with 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab

Though we are having our own adventure living in OTR, there are also others that are having one too, namely many of the businesses in the area. We decided to start looking at some of these businesses and conduct some interviews. Enjoy!


Chad Garrett: Why Wine and Coffee? What was the inspiration?

Bob Bonder: A few things. One, wine parallels coffee in places it is grown and the effect it has on flavor. You hear the term terroir a lot in the wine world and you don’t hear it a lot in the coffee world, but they are very similar – from the earth that its grown in, the climate, and the history. It’s kind of a fun parallel learning experience. The other aspect is the neighborhood. The dynamics of it currently really, really flourish in the evening, though during the daytime it’s a little less crowded. In order to have a coffee shop up here, that could really take advantage of those evening dynamics, we wanted to do something that would cater to that a little more. Not everyone wants a cup of coffee at night, though we felt that the crowd that is up here, a good chunk of them, would enjoy a glass of wine at night. It has proven to be a pretty good tweak on the original Tazza Mia concept to make it fit the neighborhood a little bit better.

CG: What is a coffee lab?

BB: It means bringing out more of the indirect kinds of current coffee. It starts with the fact that every cup we are doing we do by the individual cup in the pour-over bar and it’s a very exact dynamic. It involves laying out to the gram every coffee bean and ensuring you have the exact right amount of coffee to brew a cup. We are bringing the water to a degree, an exact degree of temperature to brew it at and we are slowly pouring that water over the grinds in just the right mechanism to ensure that every ounce of flavor gets fully extracted. And that is something you’re not going to find in other places. And it continues in the way be make our expresso drinks and the fact that the equipment that we are using is the best in the world. It allows us to tweak those same factors that go into expresso such as temperature and quantity of coffee, and the end result is us being able to control the flavors of the coffee so that you’re getting the most out of what that origin has to offer. The same way you would want to create Bordeaux Yirgacheffe – you don’t want it tasty dark and earthy and muddled, you want it to taste bright and citricousy. Those exact measurements allow us to do that.

CG: Where do you get your ingredients from?

BB: We roast ourselves, but we import raw green coffee from all around the world down to the Tazza Mia on 6th and Vine. We try to establish direct relations with farmers whenever possible so we know exactly who and where our coffee is coming from. Having that personal relationship really goes a long way -sometimes it is just the satisfaction of knowing we can pay them a better wage and are adding to their quality of life. It also matters though in terms of quality – if in one years harvest we find a different characteristic and we want to highlight that more we can help them figure out where in the faming process this occurs and have them focus more on that. That part is pretty unique and really fun and rewarding was well.

CG: Why OTR? why not Northside or Clifton for example?

BB: I think the energy here is really unique in Cincinnati – it is what makes me want to stay and continue living in Cincinnati. The development that is going on up here (Over the Rhine), the history in the area and the architecture is unbelievable. The fact that some of this stuff is still intact and actually available to open a business in is not the type of opportunity that you would find in a New York, San Francisco or other places I have lived in the past. It’s something that I think is specific to this part of Cincinnati and it is great to just see people and the city rallying around you. It’s just got a ton of momentum right now. I think it is just going to continue .

CG: What would be the least favorable characteristic of OTR?

BB:From the business side I think it is the daytime traffic here is still slow. So most of the people that are up here, are up here in the evening where as in the business district downtown, I mean I’m in building where there is 1200 people. But that’s also what makes it cool, it’s not the lack of people, or the lack of 30 story buildings, it wouldn’t be as cool if there were….. I think over time with the more development they are doing, by bringing in more fun, entrepreneurial, creative businesses which will parallel the energy that the night has. It is just going to keep building and in a couple years, that will really be flourishing here as well.

CG: You recently moved to OTR? Why?

BB: I think it is the perfect place – it’s at the area in which I would want to hang out. That’s the simplest way to put it. What they have done to renovate these places is awesome too and it is super convenient. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of growth that is coming. So, it is fun to get in here now and I can see myself in this area in years to come.

CG: What are your thoughts on families living in OTR?

BB: Well, my family is my staff and the stores are my children! It’s cool to see families in OTR but I don’t really have those dynamics personally to deal with so it’s not something I know from my own personal side of things.

CG: What are your future dreams for 1215?

BB: I’d love to do more of this type of concept in other areas. We have some super-secret plans in the works for north of Liberty and Over The Rhine that I’m working on this year. Even within OTR I’ll be doing some expansion this year.

CG: So I hear you are going to Washington DC in support of small business in Cincinnati?

BB: I got an email that I honestly thought was fake. You want me to go to the White House for what? But, it is a group of small to mid-size business owners  and we are going to meet economic staff. They will be giving us a presentation on the things they are doing to help small business. And then we are having a open discussion about concerns with my size business and the woes we have. I am really excited to go!

CG: Last question: what is your favorite quote?

BB: This isn’t exact, and I am sure I’ll mess it up, but I think Thomas Jefferson said something like: never say that you don’t have enough time in the day. You have the same time as anyone else. That’s how I live life, you can do plenty if you put your mind to it.

To learn more about 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab, feel free to visit their Facebook page, Twitter or Yelp.

Bob and me

2 Comments on “WeHeart OTR Interview: Bob Bonder with 1215 Wine Bar and Coffee Lab”

  1. ashowers76 says:

    Great interview, Chad! I hope to see more of these types of entries, as I enjoy learning more about OTR.

  2. visualingual says:

    So glad to see you expand your focus to neighborhood businesses! Per Bob’s comment, it seems to me that neighborhood employment opportunities are rather limited, which is part of the reason why daytime foot traffic is slow. It does seem like more people who work downtown are coming to OTR around lunchtime, both to eat lunch and to shop.

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