Owning your own business is the real American dream. Thousands immigrate to the United States to try and achieve this goal. But for one fourth-year UT student, she has already accomplished the dream. Eileen Iannone is the owner and manager of Bleak House Coffee in downtown Toledo.
Iannone, who is majoring in geography and planning, became the manager of Bleak House at just eighteen years old. The position was offered to her by the manager at the time, Stephanie Wandtke.
After gladly taking over the project, Iannone, with her business partner Dakota Cousino at her side, made many bold changes. From relocating the coffee shop to downtown, to getting approval from the health department, to completely revamping the whole place, Bleak House has gained attention in the Toledo community. Bleak House has garnered a large social media following throughout the course of its journey.
The exotic name, Bleak House, was inspired by a Charles Dickens novel about a long-running legal case, Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The theme also perfectly fits the atmosphere of downtown and invites in a mix of business people, creative minds and college students.
“It perfectly matches the vibe,” Iannone said.
Bleak House’s costumers love the overall aesthetic of the shop.
“The vivid walls, great art collection and comfortable seating all make this coffee shop one of the most popular ones in Toledo,” said Ryan Hieber, one of their recent customers.
Due to Iannone and Cousino’s lack of prior business experience, the two struggled in the beginning process of taking over the coffee shop. One of the major pitfalls they encountered was having to work alone without the help of any employees.
However, Iannone’s keenness for leadership positions was what encouraged her to stick through the hard times. She credited her growth in business to learning as she went along.
When it first opened, Bleak House struggled to bring in customers. But, instead of being discouraged, Iannone remained hopeful.
“A bunch of stuff went wrong but then a bunch of stuff went right,” Iannone said.
From the time Bleak House was first created to now, it has evolved drastically. They have gained a whole new social media presence on Instagram and Facebook and they even have their very own website that has contributed to their popularity within Toledo.
Their events such as Open Mic and Waffle Breakfast, which takes place every Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., have only invited in more guests.
Their unique menu and all-natural recipes have also drawn coffee lovers to their shop.
“We make a really delicious brown sugar cinnamon vanilla latte,” Iannone said. “The syrup is completely handmade and we use grass-fed dairy.”
Bleak House’s unique atmosphere and menu have not only won them loyal customers, but awards as well. Toledo City Paper’s annual Dining Guide Awards awarded them ‘Best Coffee Shop in the City of Toledo.’ Iannone also won ‘Best Barista in the City of Toledo,’ and Cousino was runner-up in the same competition.
Being an incredibly busy college student and managing a coffee shop all at the same time can be a little overwhelming for Iannone sometimes. However, she still seems to have it together all the time. She accredits her success to having an “incredible Type A personality.”
“Have everything organized all the time, stay productive and drink a lot of coffee,” Iannone said.