A Breath of Fresh Coffee

The transition from the drab ambience of Des Moines to the modern and sleek atmosphere of Horizon Line Coffee might be shocking when someone first enters the roastery. When examined closer, however, the small coffee shop, located on Walnut Street, fits perfectly in Iowa’s capital city. Since Brad Penna and Nam Ho launched the small business six months ago, they have succeeded in combining the contemporary culture of their Southern California background with the small community feel of Des Moines.

Ho (left) and Penna (right) brewing a drink

Although the business has only been running for around half a year,  Penna and Ho have planned out this venture for almost three years.

“Nam and I met five years ago.” Says Penna, “ We both worked in student housing at a University in Southern California and that’s how we got to meet each other. Generally, we enjoyed what we did. We got paid fine and got nice benefits and everything. But we knew we didn’t want to do that forever. So we spoke about opening a shop together but realized we had no knowledge or anything about coffee. But we knew the idea was really awesome so we both started learning and became more knowledgeable and passionate and we started talking about coffee stuff about work all the time.”

But there is more to running a business than just desire, and the inexperienced pair of friends had never run a business before.  But for Penna and Ho, the risk of moving 1,300 miles across the country was never one they doubted was worth it. And in the end, it was a risk that paid off.

Ho and Penna along with the Horizon Line menu

“It’s really humbling when we look at our numbers and realize that eighty percent of our customers are repeat customers- it means we’re doing something right most of the time.”

When they arrived in Iowa, the real work started. With very little help, the pair took weeks to prepare the location for Horizon Line’s launch. Neither knew a thing about coffee, but they were backed by friends and family the entire way.

“ I think we were always supported,” remarks Penna, “ I think people didn’t think we were the smartest, but they also didn’t think we were the dumbest. They thought if we were willing to do it then we should follow it through.”

Nam has the same sentiment. “The fact that we were willing to move across the country, that’s telling enough its in own that this is something we’re passionate about.”

Penna and Nam’s business is different from your average coffee shop. When they made the business, they made it with the goal to “cultivate the cultural, communal, and coffee growth in Des Moines” and to bring the city together. And nothing brings a community together better than coffee and companionship.




Featured picture credit: Kenzie Wyatt, photographer and barista at Horizon Line

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