Interior of Parable Coffee in Columbus (photo by Nicholas Dekker)
Food + Drink

Parable Coffee, Columbus

This favorite Columbus spot launched by Jeffrey Clark and Ben Willis aims to make change part of its mission.

Jeffrey Clark and Ben Willis met while working in Columbus coffee shops and, over the years, talked increasingly about opening their own place. In late 2020, the duo launched Parable Coffee inside Columbus’ Comune restaurant, and it quickly became a local favorite.

In summer 2022, Clark and Willis moved into their own space on South High Street downtown. The new digs sit in the corner of the former Lazarus department store building, complete with tall windows, globe-shaped lights and loads of greenery.

The drinks themselves are certainly the draw, from rich brewed coffee to single-origin espresso to sesame miso caramel latte, but there is more at play here. Clark and Willis are also seeking to create a better and more supportive environment for their employees. No tips are accepted. Instead, drinks are priced between $5 and $9 to properly pay their workers a living wage.

“We know that it’s not just a cup of coffee,” Willis says. “Every single step to get that coffee to you involves a human being. People try to reduce things to just the product and they’re not considering how the product came to be. We’re paying everyone, every step, the appropriate price.”

Earlier this year, Parable Coffee’s lineup of offerings got sweeter with the hire of pastry chef Aaron Clouse, who has worked in Columbus-area restaurants and appeared on Food Network, to head up the baking program. Clouse produces exquisite pastries like scones, creme-bruleed cookies with cream cheese inside and giant round croissants filled with Nutella or citrusy yuzu cream.

Those who do not have the funds for coffee or food can pay what they are able or have their meal covered by Parable’s community card, building on the sense of inclusiveness and support that Clark and Willis are working to create.

The shop’s name comes from the title of Octavia E. Butler’s 1993 post-apocalyptic novel Parable of the Sower, which explores social and financial inequality. In it, the main character comes to recognize humanity’s role in changing the world for the better. A quote from the author is printed at the top of Parable’s menu and on a sandwich board out front: “All that you touch you change. All that you change changes you.” 

149 S. High St., Columbus 43215, 614/636-0341,