Restaurants / Openings

New Fort Worth Ascension Coffee to be a Showcase for Significant Changes With the Popular Concept

Ascension President Tells More — a PaperCity Exclusive

BY // 09.16.20

The long-awaited, first Fort Worth location of Ascension Coffee will finally be opening in WestBend soon. It was originally slated for an early 2020 opening, but is now set to debut on October 20 at 1751 River Run Suite No. 151.

It will be located next-door to Bartaco, backing onto the Trinity River with an expanded covered patio and a spectacular view ― providing another quick stop right off the Trinity Trail system.

Founder Russell Hayward is now on the board of the company, and in charge of the coffee roastery side of the business. Bill Schaffler, whose resume includes his years serving as CFO of both La Madeleine and Nothing Bundt Cakes, took over as president in July of 2019. Since Schaffler’s arrival a lot has changed. He sat down with PaperCity Fort Worth to explain.

Many changes at Ascension Coffee were already in the works, prior to the appearance of coronavirus, like the crystallization of the menu ― a shift that was implemented companywide in June.

“As the concept grew from two location to nine, the menu expanded with it,” Schaffler says. “We found ourselves with over 40 items, and now we have slimmed down to our top selling 30 items. We just needed to streamline our menu as well as add value to our customer’s experience. So you might notice our pricing has changed as well.”

Another welcome change is the addition of all-day-breakfast. Regulars love Ascension’s Aussie Bacon + Egg Roll, served on a brioche bun and topped with Jersey butter, and the popular Bacon + Egg Protein Brekky with roasted mushrooms, blistered tomatoes and avocado. But this is a coffee shop that serves all three meals and every “nosh” in-between. At lunchtime, several sandwiches shine like the Wagyu Pastrami, a classic cold Reuben with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Russian dressing and more Jersey butter.

Pane Aria Benedict.

Ascension is also known for their bowls, including the Hippie Bowl filled with ancient grains, kale and pickled beets, among other things. The new Fort Worth Ascension Coffee will be a prime spot for the college crowd to sit, soak and study. It should also become a sought-after brunch destination with mimosa carafes for $10 and a relaxing view of the Trinity River.

Schaffler says ramping up to open the first Fort Worth Ascension has put a lot of things on the fast track ― like nailing down their design philosophy. He calls the Fort Worth Ascension Coffee a prototype for the company going forward. The company worked with Plan B Group on the many design updates.

You’ll see polished concrete floors, as well as both subway tile behind the main counter and bold Moroccan tiles in white and gray tones on a pony wall dividing the space. Shelving toward the back will display a selection of coffee-brewing supplies as well. Seating will be cafe style inside, with a counter positioned near windows that can open in the event of ideal weather in Texas.

The Fort Worth Ascension also will have a handy service window off the Trinity Trail to hand quick cups and snacks to sweaty cyclists and joggers. The patio will wrap two sides of the building, and will be covered by permanent awnings, with brick pavers under foot. This will also be the first Ascension Coffee to serve wine, and local beer (including Fort Worth’s Martin House), along with the usual cold brews and nitro coffees on eight taps.

Black Rooster Bakery’s chocolate croissants.

Future Ascension Coffees will have more of an emphasis on outdoor dining as well, Schaffler reveals. Addison’s Ascension has already gotten the new styling treatment, and Dallas’ Oak Lawn and Crescent Court locations are up next.

Ascension was introduced to Black Rooster Bakery also in Fort Worth, and have found their European style pastries to be a huge hit ― so much so that Black Rooster pastries are now available in all Dallas Ascension locations, baked fresh daily. The new Fort Worth coffee shop and future Ascension locations will include a glass pastry case to display them.

Schaffler says they took the chance to reevaluate during the coronavirus shutdowns, and chose to close four of Ascension’s Dallas locations (two in downtown, one in Willow Bend Mall and another located in a North Dallas office building). So there are five locations currently and when Fort Worth opens it will be Ascension’s sixth.

“The closures put us in a much stronger position,” Schaffler tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “We are now able to focus on real estate with a great future, and we are actively looking at adding multiple locations in Plano, North Dallas and Tarrant County.”

Coronavirus also saw Ascension Coffee add a new point-of-sale system called TOAST, bringing the convenience of online ordering and pickup orders. Those new sales now make up about 20 percent of Ascension’s overall sales, since just being rolled out in June. Next up? Ascension’s new app, which will expand those sales and add a loyalty program. The new app will roll out companywide with the opening of the WestBend Ascension on October 20.

Ascension Coffee sources, blends and roasts its own coffee and its new motto is “Farm-To-Cup” as coffee drinkers are increasingly more interested in where their coffee is sourced. Sourcing and roasting remain founder Russell Hayward’s great passion ― with Ascension only sourcing the top two percent of coffee in the world.

Ascension Coffee – almond-coconut granola
Ascension Coffee’s almond-coconut granola.

“We are proud to source the best coffee globally,” Schaffler says. “We won’t serve beans that don’t score above an 84 by the Specialty Coffee Association of America and have recently launched our Cups of Excellence program, buying small lots of some of the most premium beans from around the world.”

It makes for an exceptional cup of coffee ― one that comes with its own compelling story, like the bags they just acquired from Yemen, and plan to introduce to customers next spring. Other Cups of Excellence include special beans from Peru and an additional roast from Guatemala.

Ascension Coffee has added pour-over brewing as well as Doki Doki ― which is a unique Kyoto-style cold brew method dating back to 1600s.

The company has had a transformative year, and Bill Schaffler hopes all the introspection will pay off as they look to expand the brand even more in the metroplex. The new Fort Worth Ascension Coffee will open at 6:30 am once it debuts in the October with the closing time still to be determined.

It’s a new coffee world.

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