If you see people walking around downtown Billings sipping a latte from a glass jar, they probably just left Ebon Coffee Collective.
Owners Lenny and Jaxi Howes say they want Ebon (pronounced eh-bun) to stand out for its diverse java offerings and unique containers. The glass jars are reusable, sustainable and help customers identify strongly with the new shop, they say.
“First, it tastes way better. And two, it’s the sustainability aspect, where you don’t have to throw away thousands and thousands of (paper) cups,” Lenny Howes, 29, said Friday.
Ebon Coffee opened March 5 at 2712 Second Ave. N., a spot known as the former home of Paula’s Edibles. Another shop, Mad Cupcakes, also operated briefly there before closing last year.
The Howses are Helena natives who left the state capital six years ago to try something new. Lenny knew the owners of Off The Leaf, another hip coffee shop in Billings, so he began working there before figuring out a way to strike out on his own.
Ebon, a poetic short for “ebony,” the color of coffee, raised $5,000 in online crowd-sourcing, and the Howses kept start-up costs low by doing interior renovations themselves.
The jars cost $500 for a minimum order of 756 jars, plus $125 in shipping, and Howes said he’s encouraging customers to bring the jars back to keep costs low. For every 12 returns of a jar, customers will get a free drink, which helps them and helps the business, he said.
“Every jar that comes back is one I don’t have to buy,” Howes said.
Howes acknowledges he’s uncertain whether the model is sustainable long-term if he has to replace too many Mason jars that go out the door.
So far, it’s working with customers.
Friday morning, Amanda Folk, 37, and Stephani Molden, 26, stopped in from their downtown jobs at the public defenders’ office for a caffeine fix.
When Howes informed them they’d be getting the glass jars for their drinks, it was an unexpected surprise.
“It’s cool. Eco-friendly,” Molden said.
Other customers initially blanched at leaving with the glass container, but they’re getting used to it, Howes said.
“A couple people felt really weird walking out with a jar. ... At least on the surface, everybody is really excited,” Howes said.
Ebon serves traditional Americano and espresso drinks, including lattes, cappuccino and macchiato, along with hot chocolate and tea. The shop also serves pastries made by Jaxi Howes, 31.
It’s a multi-roaster café, and Howes plans to rotate blends and always have one local option. Ebon currently has Revel Coffee from Billings, Little Red Wagon from Bozeman and the Portland-based Heart blend.
The shop has three employees in addition to the owners: John Beal, Ty Herman and Erica Hegstrom. The hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.