Flywheel Coffee is hoping to take off in KCK

Flywheel Coffee is hoping to take off in KCK.

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Freeman is the Flywheel in Flywheel Coffee.
  • Freeman is the Flywheel in Flywheel Coffee.
Jon Freeman is having a premonition. On a frigid Tuesday in February, the owner of two-month-old Flywheel Coffee, the tiny shop at 548 Central in Kansas City, Kansas, surveys the traffic speeding by.

"Every time I sit down with someone," he says as he slides a chair back from one of Flywheel's four tables, "it gets busy."

Before Freeman, 41, can sit, the door swings open, sending him behind the counter again. The customer is a regular.

"There are not too many places that I can go to get a coffee, where I can walk through the grounds that were used to make the coffee," the man jokes.

He's teasing Freeman, who has been using espresso grounds to fertilize the grass seed planted in a small, spotty patch next to the shop's parking lot.

Freeman pushes up the sleeves of his brown hoodie, revealing another pair of sleeves in ink - a reminder of his days playing bass in bands like the Shaker Hoods - and works his equipment. He retorts: "There's going to be lush green grass where I can put my picnic tables this summer."

Freeman has big plans for this brick postage stamp, which sits a few tire rolls from the Central Avenue Bridge. He says Flywheel Coffee is going to be a music venue (a few dozen people came to see a couple of singer-songwriters play a pair of Saturday nights in February) as well as an art gallery (Freeman has sold two of his own abstract paintings off the wall). But first, Flywheel (Freeman's nickname, a word etched into his left forearm) has to pull another espresso shot. He is still the shop's lone barista.

"Whoever designed this had no idea how to design a drain for an espresso machine," he says in mock frustration. These two men have had this conversation before. They talk like tinkerers in a garage.

"Could you put a screen on it?" his customer asks.

Freeman pauses, and you can feel a trade coming on. (He has already bartered with a contractor to get a new floor in exchange for cappuccinos.) "Might not be a bad idea at all, actually," he says.

Not many coffee shops have this view of downtown.
  • Facebook: Flywheel
  • Not many coffee shops have this view of downtown.
The coffee menu, like Freeman, is straightforward. Working in a tidy area the size of a Mini Cooper, he makes every drink to order, including the occasional frozen mocha or milkshake. (Two blenders stand at the ready.) He doesn't keep cold coffee in the refrigerator, though, and not 10 minutes after he admits this fact, a University of Kansas fan (with his Jayhawks cap slightly askew, his matching jersey slightly oversized, his body apparently unfazed by the cold outside) walks through the door and asks for an iced coffee.

Freeman improvises, pouring drip coffee over ice and adding a shot of vanilla. He hands over the cup and asks the kid to tell him what he thinks. But the fan just wants to get on the road (he says he and some friends are headed out of town), and he leaves without opening the lid.

"I ask my customers to tell me if something is working for them," Freeman says. "They have to be my QA [quality assurance] when it comes to cold coffee."

He says this neighborhood is ready for a coffee shop that can serve as a gathering place for artists. Investors have purchased the former Sophie's Deli across the street (a former stop on onetime bread-truck driver Freeman's delivery route), and the bike shop Revolve, a few doors down, is slated to open this month.

"There's no foot traffic, but people from the neighborhood walk down," Freeman says. "I thought about taking an espresso and cappuccino banner and going all Little Caesars out there. I haven't done it yet, but that doesn't mean I won't."

His sign-holding days are pushed off a bit longer by a white-haired couple in need of caffeine.

"We just drove by and saw you were open and thought we'd give you a try," the woman says. She and the man take seats, as does Freeman for only the second time in the few hours since he has opened.

"People don't expect to see this here," Freeman says. "But I know that there's no coffeehouses here, and I can see people enjoying my vision."

Flywheel Coffee is open 7 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Monday - Friday and 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. Saturday.

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