While the eastern portion of the United States has some drastic cultural differences — from the coastline to Appalachia, or the bustling north to the sweltering south — the common love of coffee runs as deep as the waters of the North Atlantic.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has been too much to bear for an untold number of cafes this year, when already slim margins were driven to their limits, and temporary closures too often became permanent ones. Yet some entrepreneurs brazenly defied that trend in 2020, opening their first ever shops or pushing forward with pre-existing expansion plans with hope for a brighter tomorrow.
We profiled at least a half a dozen beautiful new independent shops that opened in New York City, the country’s early epicenter of the pandemic, some by new companies and some by existing players. Atlanta’s love of coffee supported several standout cafe openings this year, while other inspiring ribbon-cuttings from south Florida to Montreal proved that the show must go on.
Daily Coffee News was also excited to report on an exciting number of East Coast businesses owned and operated by women, people of color, and members of other groups that remain underrepresented in coffee ownership positions.
There were also some beautiful new interiors designed and revealed in anticipation of better times ahead, when a visit to a coffee shop can entail much more than a mask-muffled to-go order.
As we head into 2021, here’s a look back at 20 notable 2020 openings in the eastern U.S. and Canada.
New York City-based progressive specialty coffee company Coffee Project NY has opened its third retail location inside a 3,750-square-foot space in Long Island City. The facility will soon also house the company’s roasting operation, as well as the only Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) Premier Training Campus in New York, pending approval.
The critical thinkers at Roastology Coffee have unveiled an expansive, 4,500-square-foot new home in Richmond, Virginia, in which to comfortably explore the sweet science of coffee.
LCD Soundsystem founder and frontperson James Murphy is perhaps the highest profile member of the Four Horsemen/Daymoves ownership team, which also includes Christina Topsøe, Randy Moon and Justin Chearno.
One of New York’s newest coffee haunts and eateries, Porcelain combines a large dash of old-world Austria with just a splash of 2019 Hollywood in the Ridgewood neighborhood of Queens.
Five days after Klvn Coffee Lab Co-Owner Jeff Sloan returned from a surfing and coffee sourcing trip to Peru this past September, he and co-owner Will Humphrey moved the entire roasting operation into a new 2,700-square-foot space in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood.
If ever there was a foil to the stark design aesthetic that swept over so many New York City cafes through the 2010s, it is Felix Roasting Co., a relatively new Midtown coffee oasis that eschews minimalism in favor of kaleidoscopic splendor.
The currently half-capacity crowd can enjoy the natural light pouring in through three walls of glass as they approach the bar, beneath which waterfall tiling cascades onto the floor.
Unlocked Coffee Co-Owner Rocío Salazar told Daily Coffee News that the coffee company maintained the building’s overall modern-industrial vibe within its own 1,700-square-foot interior, which includes exposed brick walls, concrete floors and metal piping. Some wood surfaces add a natural element under geometric pendant lighting, while the bar features a tile mosaic that invokes the owners’ Latin American roots.
Inside, a colorful interior awaits customers for when safety permits. The mint green walls of the 1,760-square-foot space are brightened by two-story-tall windows that also channel sunshine down onto floors with pink, red and blue designs. On the gleaming white top of the warm wood-fronted bar is a stretch of matte black equipment reflecting the seriousness with which Perc approaches its craft.
“Design is something we love at Pista,” Cafe Pista Co-Owner and Roaster Alexandre Séguin told Daily Coffee News. “From our spaces to our coffee bags, it’s something we take pride in doing well. We worked with two designers from a firm called MPGMB for our [Rue] Masson space. It focuses on natural light, brightness and a variety of forms and shapes to add texture and flow to the room.”
Visitors are perhaps most boldly transported, so to speak, into the culture of Colombian coffeelands by an actual imported Willys Jeep parked on the cafe floor near the entrance. The Willys, a beloved symbol of Colombia’s proud agricultural spirit, now also provides a bright red focal point inside the shop.
With views from the Aero cafe into the roastery, Femino hopes customers will naturally take an interest in the nuances of different roast profiles. A large, bright adaptation of Counter Culture Coffee’s coffee taster’s flavor wheel is a focal point of the otherwise clean interior filled with blues and whites.
“The bookcase hides a secret door to the ArtHound Gallery, which we’ll open up when either of us has events going on,” said Crowley. “The best things about the space are by far the bookcase and the cozy seating areas. All of the furniture has been thrifted and it gives off a really warm, inviting vibe.”
The new 1,900-square-foot shop on Greene Street in SoHo is smaller than the kaleidoscopic 3,000-square-foot original Felix location. Yet like its predecessor, the new Felix space is bursting with opulence from the detailed and imaginative design care of Ken Fulk, who worked with the company on both locations.
The coffee shop represents a creative reuse of a location formerly used as a warehouse on the loading dock side of the Fair City Mall. Foundation Coffee Founder Hae Kim maintained the warehouse aesthetic and updated it with elements of modern design that put coffee squarely in the spotlight.
Getting any new business off the ground requires boundless optimism — the belief that almost anything is possible. Embracing this spirit, Moonshot Coffee Bar is currently lifting off in downtown Nashville, serving fresh coffee and high hopes.
“Folks who have been here their whole lives are being pushed out of the city because of property taxes,” Onwuchekwa told DCN. “I saw coffee as a good way of supporting the community and changing the perception people have about coffee… I saw it as a great way to highlight Black and brown stories.”
With One Up One Down’s 3-kilo Mill City Roasters machine visible behind a retail coffee bar, the new location boasts an abundance of lovingly restored wood surfaces, white upper walls, found objects and 1970s-style furnishings in the space formerly occupied by Trenton Coffee House and Records.
Standard Pour Media Team Director Khadeidra Le Gendre noted the historic dearth of people-of-color owned coffee roasting and retail companies, despite the fact that coffee is grown in “primarily Black and brown countries.” Thus, Le Gendre said, “We are intentional about providing inspiration as well as opportunities to fellow Black entrepreneurs.”
Building upon his previous experience running a coffee shop, Mike Loyd co-founded Dope Coffee in 2018 with Stace and Chel Loyd to focus on coffee-oriented products created by and for Black people and anyone interested in Black culture.