By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jan 19, 2004 at 5:48 AM

{image1}Originally Ryan Mason wanted to design a home coffeemaker, but when he realized such an endeavor would cost a half-million dollars in manufacturing fees, he reconsidered.

Instead, the 25-year-old, who worked for both Brewed Awakenings (now Anodyne Coffee) and Alterra, decided to open his own coffee shop under the same name he planned to use for his coffeemaker: ROAST.

"Coffee is a wonderful thing," says Mason, a man of moderation who says he only drinks two cups of coffee a day.

ROAST, inc. occupies the old East Side Gallery space at 2132 E. Locust St. and will offer coffee, light pastries from the City Market and a smoke-free environment to UWM students, Columbia/St. Mary's employees and the East Side community.

Mason hopes to start filling mugs by the end of the month, but it all depends on when he can locate his furniture. Apparently, he commissioned an undisclosed company to create café tables and chairs, but the business went bankrupt in the process.

The Janesville native plans to serve the roastings of both of his former employers, but under a private "ROAST" label to build brand recognition, something he has learned from his graduate work at Keller College where he will earn an MBA in Business Management within the next year.

"A lot of people in the coffee business don't have management experience," says Mason, who is the majority owner with a silent partner. "I think that's something that will differentiate myself.

"Most people see the name ROAST and think that we roast the coffee but that's not necessarily true. I wanted a name that was synonymous with the coffee industry so people would remember it and ROAST provided that."

With his strong business background, Mason is eager to explain the meaning of ROAST's tagline, "Grow. Roast. Brew. Serve."

"Basically, it illustrates the coffee process from start to finish in a nice concise message. It is unbelievable how many variables there are during the coffee cycle and how easily they can disrupt what the end cup will taste like."

Although Mason has no plans of featuring live music, he does intend to work with UWM art students and local artists to bring in fresh work every month. He is also working hard to create an aesthetically pleasing environment, including a unique bar made from black cast concrete.

"It looks like a chemistry lab table," he says.

In contrast to the austere black bar, the exposed duct work and the stainless steel accents, the walls will be painted warm red, orange and wheat. Mason plans to expand at some point to include outdoor patio seating on the side of the building.

Mason credits the Alterra owners and managers with educating him about the different characteristics of coffee and about the importance of being sensitive to the cultures of coffee-producing countries.

"You have to know where your coffee comes from," he says.

Even though he is opening an independent café, Mason holds no distaste for the mega-chain Starbucks.

"Starbucks opened it all up, but there's room for a number two," he says. "I'm not saying I'm going to be that number two, but I don't think the full potential of the coffee industry has been tapped ... There are twice as many pizza places (as cafes) in the country, yet coffee has been around for thousands of years."

ROAST, inc. will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call (414) 963-6363.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.