Portland, Maine-based Coffee By Design is today opening its newest coffee bar, inside a 45,000-square-foot renovated former warehouse building in the up-and-coming East Bayside neighborhood.
The 23,000-square-foot roastery and bar — with 20,000-plus-square-feet more room for growth — represents a massive investment for co-owners Alan Spear and Mary Allen Lindemann, who opened Coffee By Design’s first store 20 years ago and have since opened six other retail outposts.
“If somebody could have looked into a crystal ball and told me this was happening…I don’t think I would have believed them,” Spear told Daily Coffee News. “Twenty years ago there’s no way I would have thought we’d be occupying a 45,000 square foot building. I never even thought we could own commercial real estate.”
Coffee By Design worked with numerous design firms on the facility, which is elaborately detailed to reflect the company’s past and its vision. Reclaimed local materials throughout are augmented by custom design touches from Main-based craftsmen and artists, including original artwork and lighting fixtures.
The main bar and training lab includes multiple Rancilio espresso machines; Curtis, Bunn, Baratza, Fetco and Mahlkonig brewers and grinders; and a Modbar pour over station. A “Blend Bar,” which the owners describe as like a candy shop for coffee, will feature six rotating single-origin coffees that customers can custom blend. The main retail and training space includes a large garage door that opens to the roastery, visually connecting the spaces.
“Our retail store is really warm and inviting but it has a true connection to the roasting operation,” says Spear. “Having all these components under one roof has been a vision of ours for over 10 years. We tried to do it in our last facility, but it never really came to fruition because of space.”
The owners say the new facility is allowing for increased experimentation and creativity in all aspects of the company’s coffee program, from buying limited availability coffees to exploring all manners of brew methods. That said, large batch drip brewing and other staples of the company’s traditional retail focus will remain.
“We kept thinking how do you design a ‘wow’ factor without having customers get defensive,” says Lindemann. “We want people to have fun and not be afraid to ask questions. We actually trademarked the phrase ‘specialty coffee without the attitude’ last year.”
While the retail presence is critical, the primary impetus for the investment was a response to annual double digit growth in wholesale operations. With two new roasters and ample space, Lindemann says the facility is in some ways a departure from what has been the company’s slow-growth strategy.
“This was a huge leap for us,” she says. “What I remembered so vividly when we first opened 20 years ago was that feeling of taking a chance and making that commitment to your vision.”