Spencer’s Coffee: Brewing strong connections

Spencer’s Coffee Shop is the only place in bowling Green where patrons can come to get latte art. Cody Crume, 23, is one of the latte artists. “I love it. It takes a lot of practice because there are a lot of steps. It’s more than just pouring foam. You have to get everything right and pay attention,” said Crume.

Ryan Goodlett & Sam Chumbley/Cherry Creative

“Let’s go to Spencer’s” has become a colloquial phrase among college students, professors and members of the Bowling Green community alike, making it no surprise that it was once again voted “Best of the Hill.” 

The beloved coffee shop has sat nestled in Bowling Green’s downtown for 18 years. Spencer’s was started by a WKU art professor who saw the need for a local coffee shop near campus. The original owner blended his love for coffee with his love for art by displaying the work of local artists on the brick walls of the shop. 

The current owner, former WKU student Justin Shepherd, bought Spencer’s in 2005 with the goal of creating a space for people to find a bright spot in their day.

“I was a customer before I owned the place, and that is what it was for me,” Shepherd said. “I saw potential to build on that and to provide a chill place for people to escape.”

Over the years, Shepherd has watched Spencer’s grow from a hub for business people working downtown, to a community staple for people of all walks of life. 

“It’s always been about making a space where people can walk in,” Shepherd said. “Giving them a place to celebrate or meet up with friends … like a modern-day pub.” 

Shepherd has succeeded in giving the community just that. Spencer’s is not just a place to study: It is a place that inspires deep conversation, provides quality products and service and breaks down stereotypes. 

“Coffee shops are sometimes portrayed as this snoody, hipster sort of thing,” Shepherd said. “We’re not into that. The space is what the customers make it; we just go along for the ride with them and stick to our values.”

Jacob and Rachel Roy are WKU alumni who have been married for eight months and had their first date at Spencer’s. They valued the quality time they spent together at the local shop while dating. 

“We had so many conversations together across those wooden tables,” Rachel Roy said. “From fears and dreams, to family and backgrounds, to our faith and friendships.”

While playing board games with friends, they grew close to fellow customers, baristas and kitchen workers as well, she said.

“We always felt so special and thought it was sweet that the workers would remember our order: a small Front Porch Blend with absolutely no room and a small iced vanilla latte,” Rachel Roy said.

During the couple’s junior year at WKU, Jacob took Rachel on a stroll through Fountain Square Park, where he gave her a note reflecting on many of the important conversations they had shared at Spencer’s. 

“He then proposed right there on the square, and of course, after tears and hugs, we went straight to Spencer’s and ordered our norm,” Rachel Roy said. “I did the cliche thing of having them write ‘future Mrs. Roy’ on the cup, which we still have. I found out later that he wrote that note in Spencer’s as well.”

Mount Sterling junior Grace Johnson also recalls having important conversations inside Spencer’s while sipping her favorite drink, an iced vanilla latte. One of those conversations led her to make the decision to run for president of her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. 

“I had one of those conversations where you’re not sure how it was brought up, but by the end of it you’ve said everything on your mind,” Johnson said. “Without that conversation, I’m not sure I would have had the confidence to try to do something I really wanted to do.”

Louisville senior Janae Wellum has also made several big decisions within the walls of Spencer’s. After a challenging freshman year at a different university, she visited Bowling Green where her brother was in school at WKU. 

“I made the decision to transfer to WKU with my mom in Spencer’s,” Wellum said.

Not long after that decision, WKU gave Wellum the opportunity to study abroad at Harlaxton, an opportunity she chose to accept while talking to friends about it in Spencer’s. 

“Spencer’s has made a really awesome environment to cultivate deep, life-changing conversations,” Wellum said.

Wellum described Spencer’s as a refuge and a community.

“It’s the heart of Bowling Green, and it’s the heart of WKU and its people,” she said.