Tina Hill finds her niche in baking at Central Park Coffee Company

GTNS photo by Grace King

Baked goods are homeade by Tina Hill at Central Park Coffee Company. The coffee shop on the square in Mt. Pleasant opened in June.
GTNS photo by Grace King Baked goods are homeade by Tina Hill at Central Park Coffee Company. The coffee shop on the square in Mt. Pleasant opened in June.

Coffee is only a small part of Central Park Coffee Company for Tina Hill.

Baking is Hill’s creative outlet. As the youngest in her family, Hill grew up with nieces and nephews from an early age. On the weekends, she would sit them down on the kitchen counter and bake while they ate cookie dough. The tradition continued throughout Hill’s college career and on the holidays.

“It was just always a thing we did,” Hill said, explaining that the baked goods and food served at Central Park Coffee Company is her part of the coffee shop. “That’s my avenue of getting out something I have a passion for.”

While Central Park Coffee Company only opened this past June, it has already become a hub of activity for the people of Mt. Pleasant. From Bible studies to retirement parties to ribbon-cutting ceremonies, Central Park Coffee Company filled a need in the community when the former coffee shop in that location, Sip, closed their doors this past spring.

From the time Hill and her husband, Tim, heard Sip was going out of business and the building was up for lease, everything seemed to fall into place. The couple were looking for a new endeavor as their daughter, who graduated from Mt. Pleasant Christian School in May, headed off to college.

The Hills, who both work at Mt. Pleasant Christian School, were also looking for a new investment to supplement their income as they began to pay for college.

“We stepped in and took over from there,” Hill said. “We’re very community-oriented and love to be part of the downtown community.”

The Hills changed the décor, painting the walls burnt orange, building long tables for additional seating and putting up chalkboards for the menu. It no longer looks like Sip. It looks like Central Park Coffee Company, a name they agreed on as a family. From Sip, they purchased the espresso machine, coffee grinders and some tables and chairs.

Everything they did to get Central Park Coffee Company off the ground, they prayed about first. The doors just kept opening, Hill said, and while it hasn’t always been easy, it just feels like something they are supposed to be doing.

At first, Hill was intimidated by the espresso machine, but she has found it isn’t as difficult to make as she thought. Hill no longer finds the people who come in asking for different types of coffee drinks intimidating. She sees it as a chance to learn.

“People are kind about it. People are very willing to help us learn as we go,” Hill said. “I’ll say, ‘you really have to tell me if it’s good or not because if you don’t tell me, I don’t know.’”

Hill, however, still prefers her desserts and homemade soup. Just last week, she tried a butterscotch scone for the first time. Her biggest baked good seller, though, is the lemon-cranberry scones.

As school started at the end of August, the Hills have felt the exhaustion of juggling their careers and opening a new business at the same time. They’re tired, but Hill said they have wonderful employees who help a lot.

“We’re very blessed and appreciative of them,” Hill said. “Knowing we don’t have to do it on our own. There’s people we can rely on.”

Over the past few months, Hill has learned you can’t predict the public. When Central Park Coffee Company has slow or busy days, there doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason for it, she said.

“Old Threshers was difficult because we didn’t know how to prepare for it,” Hill said. They expected their lunch crowd to be the biggest, but quickly found that Central Park Coffee Company was the place to be for midmorning breakfast during the Reunion.

The low prices at a coffee shop also mean you have to sell a lot. Catering and box lunches help with some of that revenue. Hill has seen a lot of success in businesses ordering lunches for meetings from organizations like the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance and the Iowa State Extension Office. Just recently, Hill also baked desserts for a wedding in Fairfield for 300 people.

When Hill and Tim retire from the Mt. Pleasant Christian School in the future, Hill sees this as something they can continue. It’s definitely a long-term endeavor.

As locals to Henry County, the Hills know the business owners. Now as business owners themselves, it’s more of a partnership than a friendship. They talk about how they can improve downtown, be more effective in business and get more people through their doors. “We need to work together and not work against each other,” Hill said.

“I want people to enjoy coming to Mt. Pleasant and go to all the businesses and tell their friends about it and say, ‘This is the cutest town,’” Hill continued. “We give them something to come to Mt. Pleasant for and to return.”