What's Brewing in Champaign County?: Hammerhead Coffee

On July 17, Hammerhead Coffee changed hands. Todd Thorstenson, the original owner of the coffee shop who took the name and business philosophy from his record label that operated from 1993-2000, sold his business. With customer experience at the heart of the café, Thorstenson built up a heavy rotation of regulars, as well as newcomers who would stop in to check out the space at the corner of University and Wright. New owners Ryne and Christine are taking the dedication to customers one step further.

“If we make a drink and it’s not good, we’ll make it again. If it’s still not good, we’ll do it again and again. We’re here to make people happy,” Ryne explained as he, Christine, and I chatted about the new changes coming to Hammerhead. “What we’re trying to do isn’t about the money, money isn’t the value. Our product is the value.” Thorstenson has also been helping out with the transition. “He’s in here almost every day. He doesn’t owe us anything, but he’s a great guy and he loves this place." 

Ryne, a business owner from Chicago, and Christine, a student at the University of Illinois, are engaged to be married, and feel like they can make Hammerhead a stronger draw in the competitive coffee market in the greater Champaign County area. The new owners have a good idea of how they want Hammerhead to evolve, and that comes with some exciting new additions and expansions. Fresh baked good will now be sold, all of which are baked in house. They’ll also be serving a food menu that they’ve crafted to encourage customers to come and stay awhile in their open, engaging space that has always been a showcase for local art. The addition they’re most excited for, however, is Taiyaki.

“We were just in Manhattan, and people were lined out the door for Taiyaki. It’s really taking off, and we’re excited to bring it to Champaign-Urbana,” Ryne said. Taiyaki is served in a fish-shaped cone that houses frozen yogurt which is typically flavored with matcha and served with a variety of toppings. Christine explained the treat to have a tart flavor, but one that they expect many to come back again and again to enjoy.

Along with menu changes, Hammerhead will continue to serve delicious teas and coffees. Hammerhead brews both Dark Matter and Intelligentsia coffee, the latter of which trained the new owners in barista practices and techniques. Ryne and Christine mentioned many times in our conversation that they’re determined to brew only what they believe to be the best. An added bonus is a selection of bubble tea, which has already proven to be incredibly popular in the area.

Christine and Ryne also want to break out of the confines of being a campus coffeeshop. Foot traffic is great in that area thanks to business and residential buildings, plus it’s easy to spot on the corner from the street. That being said, parking has always been a slight concerned, with few paid meter spots outside of the building. Those spots are now free and open to customers all the way down the lot where posted. Added features and items to the Hammerhead experience have the new owners excited and ready to get started. 

“We can’t wait to show people what we have ready for them.”

Hammerhead Coffee expects to have their new menu up and running by August 20th, just in time for the start of classes at the University of Illinois. Keep an eye on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.

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