The Vinyl Cafe: a place for coffee, conversation and music


Vinyl Grind sits on Main Street as a cultural hub for the Ames Community. Serving coffee and pastries, the business also hosts local musicians and sells records.

Megan Salo

Artwork, photos and crates of records line the walls of the small but cozy coffee shop at 303 Kellogg Ave.

Upon walking into The Vinyl Cafe, one is instantly welcomed by the sounds of old-school music coming from a record player in the corner, smells of fresh coffee and a welcoming smile from the baristas.

If you’re just interested in grabbing a quick coffee, you’ve come to the wrong place.

“People come for the coffee and stay for the conversation,” shop owner Blake Delaney said.

The Vinyl Cafe is filled with stories.

When asked about why he wanted to own a coffee shop, Delaney’s answer was that he didn’t.

“As a kid, I always wanted my own record store,” he said. “I came in here five or six years ago and fell in love with the store, fell in love with the records. And the more I got in here, the more I wanted it.”

Now that he has it, he is able to enjoy both the ups and downs of being a small business owner. As an ex-contractor, Delaney explained that the biggest difference in occupation is the pace.

“There’s no end point,” he said. “When I was contracting, you have an end to a project. This is just a 24/7 cycle. There’s no stop.”

He explained that another difficult aspect of owning a small business is accepting the fact that he can’t do everything himself. In order to do this, he relies on his baristas.

“It’s hard to find people that fit exactly what you want in shops like this,” Delaney said.

But he seemed to have found the best woman for the job: Meredith Kestel, junior in journalism and mass communication.

“She just gets it,” Delaney said.

Kestel, who has worked for Delaney for about a year and a half, only has positive comments about The Vinyl Cafe.

“I love Blake. He is the best boss and honestly one of the best people you could have on your side,” she said. “I love being able to connect with the customers, hug them on a bad day, laugh with them on a good day. I think I am so lucky to work for such a great establishment.”

The customers and the interactions he has with them are also some of Delaney’s favorite aspects of owning The Vinyl Cafe.

“Without my guests, without the Vinyl family, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “I feel like I’m part of a thread in the fabric of Downtown Ames, now.”

This “fabric of Downtown Ames” is found weaved among the shops located on and around Main Street that surround The Vinyl Cafe. It’s also found in the café’s artwork, created by local artists and the local bands that perform live on Sunday nights.

Delaney said many people come to the café because of the welcoming atmosphere. He described the space as a safe zone because of its diverse customers and its acceptance of all walks of life.

“We don’t care what religion, ethnicity, what your sexual orientation is, if you’re young or old, this is a safe place,” Delaney said. “I think that’s one of the things that people are most grateful for.

“And the last thing I have to say, as a small business owner, tell your friends.”