Ground Floor: Going from bean counting to coffee beans

Coralville coffee shop owner skipped accounting job offer for new career

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April 1, 2014 | 10:07 am

In her former life as a corporate accountant, Jenny Henningsen traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada.

During those long solo trips, she sought solace in the friendly surroundings of local coffee houses.

“It got to be my habit to try to find the best coffee in the towns I visited,” she said. "I traveled to a lot of the same places and became familiar with some coffee shops that served fabulous coffee."

Finally, burned out by the long hours and stress of her job, Henningsen decided to take a break from the corporate world about a year ago.

“I left my job with the intention of finding another accounting job after a few months off,” Henningsen said. “I actually had another job offer when I learned that Iowa River Landing wanted a local person to open a coffee shop.

"I was almost 40 and I wanted to do something different with my life so I thought, why not now?”

Henningsen turned down the accounting job and opened Waterstreet Coffee Bar in the Coralville commercial development on Dec. 10.

The coffee shops Henningsen frequented during her travels served as inspiration for her new business venture. She partnered with a nationally-known roaster, Kickapoo Coffee Roasters out of Viroqua, Wis., to supply high-quality, sustainably-produced coffee and espresso beans.

“I thought the Iowa City area could use an upgrade in coffee,” she said. “My goal is to provide the best cup of coffee you can find anywhere.”

To appeal to a wider audience, including Henningsen’s husband, Waterstreet Coffee Bar also serves wine and craft beers.

“My husband doesn’t really get why people would want to sit around in a coffee shop, but he’s fine if he can order a beer,” Henningsen  explained. “But we have more of a coffee shop feel than a bar feel.”

The coffee bar also features a menu of small plate items, including Iowa-produced cheeses, deviled eggs made with eggs from a Solon farm, and biscotti from a Coralville bakery.

“I want to help out other local small businesses, too,” Henningsen said.

Although the shop’s kitchen is small, Henningsen is trying to make as much as she can from scratch.  All syrups are made in-house and are less sugary than mass-produced brands.

As the weather warms, Henningsen is planning a number of special events for Waterstreet Coffee Bar, including live music, wine tastings, and a weekly game night.

“I want to this to be known as a community place where people can meet friends, relax, and feel comfortable to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine,” she said.

At a Glance

  • Owner: Jenny Henningsen
  • Business: Waterstreet Coffee Bar
  • Address: 925 E. Second Ave., Coralville
  • Phone: (319) 351-9317
  • Website: waterstreetcoffeebar.com

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