To be “zen” means to feel peaceful, calm, and collected. When job burnout left Abby McLeay run down, she knew she needed some zen in her life. Finding inspiration from a quaint coffee shop in Cannon Beach, Oregon, the aspiring entrepreneur and her husband, Ryan, began their next adventure and launched what’s known today as Zen Coffee Co.
The Cannon Beach shop proved to be more than a fun memory for McLeay. Between its delicate details and recycled furniture, the sustainable design inspired the vibe and “green” focus behind Zen—shown through thrifted furniture and various recycled goods. At the time, few shops in Omaha carried anything outside of commercial coffee. Through her family’s travel adventures, McLeay learned about the world of specialty coffee and committed to sharing her knowledge with everyone she knows.
Menu items like coffee flights and double cups have made Zen well known in the community, but the shop is more than what its specialties have to offer. The journey one coffee bean takes to transform into a zesty cup of coffee is far from nothing, and McLeay will often spark these conversations with customers. From the farmers who grow the coffee beans used for Zen’s espresso to the distributors who deliver orders, Zen hones in on the details to ensure each item served is crafted with care. “You open these doors, and you’re meeting farmers and distributors,” she said. “It’s such a cool industry that we have expanded into.”
Along with creating memorable customer experiences, McLeay knew she wanted to give more to her staff, customers, and community. She said the ongoing events Zen holds serve as an opportunity to bring people into one place and gather. Recently, she began teaching entrepreneur classes at local schools to help people grow their businesses. McLeay said these opportunities have given her a sense of purpose alongside running Zen. “It’s always short interactions with people every day, but it’s nice to pour myself into something and work one-on-one with people.”
Whether it’s a staff member serving a Belgian Waffle Latte, a customer creating conversations over coffee flights, or a farmer harvesting coffee beans, countless people play prominent roles within Zen. Perhaps stopping into the shop for a hot Americano is the highlight of your day, but the connections the McLeays have formed and the behind-the-scenes work done are what they pride themselves on the most. Excited to share Zen’s craft with the community, the people behind the business continue to bring others together and leave them with a feeling of closeness, inner peace, and acceptance—one sip of coffee at a time.