BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Tiedtke’s was a Toledo mainstay that still evokes nostalgic feelings in those who shopped in the downtown department store before it closed in 1972.
With the recent opening of Tiedtke’s Coffee, the taste, smell and memories of that landmark are coming back into focus.
Opening the door to the Monclova Township coffee shop, customers immediately see a gigantic photograph of Tiedtke’s as it was in 1950s, with throngs of women in heels, dresses and hats walking in and out of the Summit Street entrance.
While Maumee resident and ’83 Bowsher graduate Bill Klatt tagged along to Tiedtke’s as a kid, he confesses he has no personal memory of the store. It was while doing research for a customer of his Breakaway Advertising firm that he discovered binders of unpublished material on Toledo’s businesses in the downtown library’s history section.
“I kept running into Tiedtke’s stuff,” he said.
He was enamored with what he learned about the store, which was open from 1893 to 1972.
“Tiedtke’s was arguably the most popular department store in the region, if not the country,” Klatt said. “One of the most memorable attractions was Tiedtke’s coffee, roasted in giant red roasters right in the middle of the store. The aroma permeated each department, drawing shoppers to the rich taste of coffee from the roasted beans.”
During his research, Klatt learned that it was a move to cover up the smell of the seafood department late in the day that prompted Tiedtke’s to keep the coffee aroma lingering all day. At its peak, coffee sales were up to 1,000 cups a day.
After a few years of ruminating on Tiedtke’s coffee, Klatt checked with a trademark attorney and learned that the Tiedtke’s name was fair game, and that was the beginning of Tiedtke’s Parkwood Coffee brand in 2017.
“It’s just a hobby that snowballed,” Klatt admitted.
Working with a New Jersey importer who has contacts with a handful of farmers in Guatemala and Colombia, Klatt purchased beans that he had roasted in downtown Toledo. He designed the bags with a Tiedtke’s logo used in the 1940s and packaged the half-caf, decaf and regular-strength beans for sale in several area grocery stores, including Churchill’s, Kazmeier’s and Sautter’s. Even The Andersons General Store, before it closed in 2017, carried the brand.
While the wholesale coffee business was expanding, Klatt spent some time working remotely in Dayton, Tenn., while his wife was there on business for a year. His favorite hangout was Jenning’s Coffee Shop, and soon he was learning about the trade from the shop owners. That’s when Klatt decided to take Tiedtke’s Coffee to the next level.
“I wanted to open a shop in Maumee, but not close to other coffee shops,” he said. “I wanted a location that was convenient.”
He found one at 4444 Keystone Dr., which faces a busy Monclova Road and is a stone’s throw from McClaren St. Luke’s. Klatt and his family gutted the former office space and got to work setting up the coffee bar, an exposed brick wall and seating area with tables, leather sofa and area rugs for a comfortable, spacious feel.
In the back, Klatt set up a roaster so he can roast all of the beans on-site for both the wholesale and retail businesses.
“I can keep control of the quality and keep the prices down. Our latte and cappuccinos and mochas are the least expensive in the area,” he said, nodding to the board advertising a $4.00 cappuccino that includes a double shot of espresso with foamed milk layered on top. The mocha, at $4.50, has a mix of espresso, chocolate and steamed milk topped with whipped cream.
In a nod to the downtown Tiedtke’s location, the shop offers an Adams Street latte with double shots of vanilla espresso and the Summit Street latte, with double shots of white chocolate espresso. Both are $4.75.
“That’s four shots of espresso each,” he said. “So when I have a customer coming in asking me for something with the most caffeine, that’s it.”
Of course, a regular cup of coffee is on the menu, with the “world-famous fresh-roast, fresh-brewed coffee” available in three sizes. Tiedtke’s will feature a rotating lineup of baked goods from area providers, starting with baklava, date cookies and muffins from Sitto’s and gourmet cupcakes from P.M. Frosted Fantasies.
Since opening in late January, Klatt has enjoyed hearing stories from customers walking into the shop for the first time.
“Everyone has stories about Tiedtke’s burning down,” he said of the May 7, 1975 blaze that destroyed the empty landmark. “I’ve heard 50 stories in the past week. It was really emotional for them.”
While Tiedtke’s is the name and inspiration, the coffee shop also sells local history books on topics ranging from the Miami tribes, the Oak Openings region and the Great Black Swamp to profiles of Sam Szor, burlesque performer Miss Rose La Rose and Northwest Ohio World War II veterans.
Tiedtke’s coffee is open from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturdays. For information, visit www.tiedtkescoffee.com or find Tiedtke’s Coffee on Facebook.