Entrepreneurship Alumni Spotlight: Caleb Tremaine and Clive’s Staples

Co-owners Caleb Tremaine and Ethan Hershberger stand in front of C.S. Lewis’s house in Oxford, England on May 24, 2022. Lewis was an inspiration to the shop, as well as to the owners personally.

In Sterling, Kansas, there is a space where coffee intersects with an enthusiasm for the works C.S. Lewis. That space is Clive’s Staples, a college-town coffee shop that was built from the ground up on the foundation of good coffee and a shared passion for everything C.S. Lewis.

Wedding catering origin story.

The coffee shop and bakery was started by Harding alumnus Caleb Tremiane ’16 and his two childhood friends Ethan Hershberger and Josiah Wagler. Tremaine said that by the time he returned to Sterling from Harding, the other two had “already started a coffee catering business, where they would set up espresso bars at weddings,” so when he approached them about the idea of starting a brick and mortar shop, they were all for it. In 2017, the trio officially began their less-than-typical coffee shop journey when they purchased what used to be an old pharmacy from their local historical preservation society.

The shell of the old five and dime sits littered with rubble on April 13, 2018. Over a period of a year and a half, Tremaine and his friends completely transformed the space into the coffee shop standing today.

Out with the old, in with the new.

The building was a five and dime drug store with a soda fountain back in the 1920s and 1930s, but Tremaine said that “it was turned into a typical pharmacy building in the 60s-70s, and they installed drop-ceiling and carpet to cover up some of the cool stuff from the 20s.”

To bring the space to life, the three friends pooled their skills. Tremaine’s mechanical engineering knowledge combined with Wagler’s work as an electrician and Hershberger’s experience as an h-vac specialist allowed them to build the shop without contracting out very much of the work, so over the span of a year-and-a-half, the three men worked on late nights and weekends stripping out the material from the 60s and 70s and keeping the valuable pieces from the 20s and 30s. A personal favorite artifact of Tremaine’s is the pastry case, which is an old marble display case from the drug store. To see more pictures of the store, visit their website at https://clivesstaples.com/.

The display case from the old drug store shined on Jan. 30, 2022. Clive’s Staples’ repurposing of old materials adds to the vintage and cozy aesthetic.

A love letter to Lewis fans everywhere.

Today, Clive’s Staples reaps the benefits of the hard work and sweat of its creators. It boasts a made-from-scratch bakery, premiere coffee from two regional roasters, and, as a recent addition, a plant shop, each of which make their home among the detailed C.S. Lewis decor. Tremaine said that the Narnia easter eggs include “a wardrobe in the corner, a painting of the Dawn Treader that opens up into a door to the kitchen, and the names of some of our drinks such as “The Snow Queen.”’ For the hardcore fans in the house, users can log onto the wifi using the password “ScrewtapeEmails,” and careful observers can pinpoint the store’s logo as the light post from “Lion Witch and the Wardrobe.”

The store enjoyed a moment of peace on Jan. 30, 2022. The secret window/painting of the Dawn Treader can be found on the bottom right, as well as the logo boasting the lamp post from the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

An entrepreneur needs a creative outlet.

Thanks to this mere coffee shop, Tremaine scratches his entrepreneurial itch in ways his day job can’t. As a design engineer for agricultural equipment, the designs he works on are “very utilitarian, all about function and cost, and it doesn’t really matter what it looks like.” With Clive’s being more of a creative outlet, it has allowed the co-owner to “shove every little bucket list thing of projects that I’ve wanted to do into it,” and come up with something truly unique.

The buddy system works in business, too.

In Tremaine’s journey as a risk taker and business owner, there is one lesson that stands out above the rest, and that is to avoid going it alone. He emphasized finding “someone to do it with you that you have a lot of history with and that you trust, because it’s a lot to do by yourself. It could be with your spouse or with a friend, but having a partner makes it a lot more doable.”

If you’re ever in Sterling, Kansas, go give this cozy coffee shop a visit, and be sure to give it a follow on Instagram at @clives_staples or visit their website at https://clivesstaples.com/