Downtown Plainfield, New Jersey, has been given a jolt of energy with Queen City Coffee Roasters, a new cafe and roastery that opened its doors earlier this month.
With close family ties to the city, Queen City Coffee Roasters Founders Maher and Monica Janajri saw a gap in the specialty coffee market and decided to jump on in. Plainfield has had its share of ups and downs since its heyday as an industrial hub and commuter suburb for some of New York City’s wealthiest people, but the Janajris envision a bright future, with local businesses leading the charge.
“People have always been saying, ‘Plainfield’s got potential’ or ‘We just need a couple more years’,” Maher Janajri said. “I’ve been hearing that same phrase since I was a kid. So instead of waiting around for somebody else to do it, we thought, let’s have a hand in Plainfield’s future.”
Maher Janajri’s journey into the coffee business began with home roasting, first on the stovetop and then with a Gene Cafe home roaster. Janajri eventually upgraded to a BC Roasters BC-5 shop roaster, which now sits behind the bar of the newly opened cafe.
“It’s almost like a centerpiece,” Janajri said of the small commercial machine. “And it’s a workhorse. What makes it difficult is now I can’t roast during the day.”
The cafe is nestled inside a brick building just off Watchung Ave in downtown Plainfield. Inside, the high ceilings and exposed brick walls play nicely with the hardwood floors and big barn doors, with the bar running along one side parallel to the windows.
Atop the bar sits a line of Hario V60 drippers alongside a La Marzocco Linea Classic espresso machine, which recently replaced a Linea Mini. Pastries are sourced from fellow Jersey business Balthazar Bakery, whose Soho retail location the Janajris used to frequent when they lived in New York City.
While Plainfield carries numerous personal connections for the Janajris, the coffee connection within the shop comes from much farther afield.
“I’m part Ecuadorian, so the coffee comes from my mom’s home country,” Janajri said, noting that the bulk of the Ecuadorian green coffee is currently sourced through Minneapolis-based Cafe Imports. As the roasting operation grows, Janajri hopes to offer coffees from different countries and regions, while also forming more direct coffee connections in Ecuador.
“[My mom] has been calling all her old friends, friends she’s reconnected with on Facebook, and they make introductions,” Janajri said. “[She’ll say], ‘Listen, my son’s in the coffee industry now. Do you happen to know so-and-so?’ You start making networks, and we’re looking to start making connections with farmers in the region.”
Locally, meanwhile, the cafe seems to have made an immediate connection in Plainfield, with a larger-than-expected opening day crown and a visit from Mayor Adrian Mapp to cut the ceremonial ribbon.
“The love and warmth I feel here is unparalleled to anywhere else I’ve been,” Janajri said. “Because our project here is very mission-driven, in terms of really wanting to revitalize this downtown area and put our money where our mouth is — people really resonate with the concept. People are really getting behind us.”
Queen City Coffee Roasters is now open at 200 Court Place off Watchung Ave in downtown Plainfield, New Jersey.