For many coffee retailers, the hope for 2021 was for some kind of “return to normalcy.” Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.
What the year brought instead was heightened creativity — both from fresh upstarts identifying and filling new holes in the retail landscape, and longstanding coffee companies offering the comfort of industry experience and brand familiarity.
From the experienced set, New York City gained the first retail outpost by a wholesale roaster of a dozen years, Aficionado Coffee. The city also saw the second retail shop by Gumption Coffee, founded by Hazel de los Reyes, whose champion status was earned over 15 years ago. In Tampa, Florida, 37-year-old Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea opened a flagship coffee house since ceasing its original retail operations over two decades ago.
Simultaneously in the grand old cities of the Eastern United States, the mix was stirred by young companies that are challenging traditional owner/worker relationship models, defying “Third Wave” coffee strictures or introducing coffees sourced directly through the home countries of their owners.
As we close the book on a tumultuous 2021, here are 21 of the biggest coffee shop openings — from companies old, new and in between — that took place in the Eastern United States throughout the year (in roughly chronological order).
[Editor’s note: This feature is part of our ongoing 2021 year-end coverage. Click here for additional stories, updated daily through Dec. 31. You can also tell our editors about your new coffee shop or coffee roastery here.]
The union of two experienced specialty coffee professionals in business and in life has resulted in Jacob Alejandro, a new high-quality multiroaster coffee shop in Troy, New York.
The 2005 Australian Barista Champion, 2006 and 2013 NSW Barista Champion, and 2007 Inaugural Australian Cupping Champion, Reyes shrewdly designed both shops to engage and invite the public in through bursts of festive colors and an accessible, lively atmosphere.
Roughly two and a half years after first announcing plans to open a cafe inside Washington D.C.’s recently renovated Takoma Theatre Building, Lost Sock Roasters has found itself at last serving drinks and food to the public.
Hugh Morretta, operations manager for La Colombe Coffee Roasters’ small-batch and single-origin-focused Workshop Program, has opened an independent coffee house in Philadelphia’s Fitler Square neighborhood called Rowhome Coffee.
Exposed brick walls and the active production roastery provide an industrial vibe that is augmented by the Carrara marble-topped, pine-fronted bar, putting focus on the drinks and food being served at the Pentagon City spot, which formerly housed a Starbucks.
Partners and Odd Meter Co-Founders Eric Moers and Angelica Chayes, who opened the cozy Salem, Massachusetts, coffee shop in January, eschew the traditional top-down, boss-to-underling structure in favor of an environment that is more collaborative and equitable.
Good coffee has gotten quite a bit gooder in upstate New York’s Hudson Valley with the opening of Greater Things Roasters‘ first coffee bar.
The opening of the Café Los Sueños coffee bar is part of an even broader dream of co-owner and head roaster Carlos Payes, who grew up in a farming family in the mountains near Santa Ana, El Salvador.
Inside an approximately 100-year-old building, the airy new shop adds a touch of vibrancy to the town of less than 5,000 people, where locally driven retail commerce took a hit in the 1990s and 2000s with the arrival of big box stores.
Inside a tight 8-by-8-foot coffee shop space in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood hang two large flags — a rainbow pride flag and a Black Lives Matter flag — that firmly signal the little shop’s big ambitions toward inclusion and equity.
De Fer Coffee & Tea landed a one-two punch of specialty coffee on the Pittsburgh cafe scene this Spring with the opening of two jaw-dropping coffee shops.
A paradise of art deco design and freshly roasted coffee awaits the public in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, at Paradeco Coffee Roasters. The roastery cafe was transformed from vision into reality by Paradeco Founders Thomas Maloney and Sonya Sarkar over the course of more than a year.
Roughly 13 months in the making, the new location spreads out over about 2,500 square feet in a new building that the company sought to make feel a bit more well-worn, as if it might fit in New York City.
Best known among vacationers as the official specialty coffee supplier to various Disney properties, including the Walt Disney World Resort, the 37-year-old company’s new cafe comes more than two decades after the last of its original cafes closed down in Cigar City.
After more than a dozen years of sourcing and roasting coffee for some of New York City’s finest restaurants, hotels and caterers, Afficionado Coffee Roasters has opened a retail location all its own, in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen.
Virginia-based Rāko Coffee Roasters (styled RĀKO by the company) has returned to retail in a big way, opening two high-profile coffee shops within four weeks of one another.
Upon the cosmic black granite bar stands a matte black powder-coated La Marzocco Linea machine that was rebuilt by Brad Ewing and his electrical engineer father to include Linea PB parts and features. The Ewings’ kids, ages 5 and 8, are credited with creating the blend of paint that resulted in the soothing blue-green shade found on walls throughout the facility — a shade the family has dubbed Stormy Sea.
In Pittsburgh’s Strip District, the vertically integrated brand’s roasting of those coffees is done on a 15-kilo-capacity Joper dressed in the city’s proud black and yellow colors. Roasted beans are sold direct to consumers online, to a growing number of wholesale customers, or they make their way into drinks at two separate coffee bars at the new shop — one for takeout window service and one for customers inside.
A navy blue 12-kilo Probat roaster shines in the middle of the room under a skylight, turning out single-origin coffees and blends to appease customers seeking either the latest in specialty coffee trends, or a high-quality take on an old-country approach.
“One of the coffees we have on tap today, my father, Erwin Mierisch, grew in Nicaragua; my sister Eleane processed and milled it; my nephew Erwin worked with the team at Pulley Collective to dial it in and roast it onsite at Day Drinks on a 15-kilo Loring; and if you are in our tasting room on my shift, I will serve it to you,” Steve Mierisch told DCN via email. “I am guessing that would make it one of the most direct trade coffees on the planet.”
A specialty coffee concept under the name Alex Coffee Roasters has boomeranged from the United States to Argentina and back again, with two new shops recently opened in Brooklyn, New York, and Miami.