The city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania might not be on your specialty coffee radar, but the city of Philadelphia most certainly should be. We featured Philly no fewer than three times in the 2013 edition of Build-Outs of Summer, highlighting new cafes from Joe, Menagerie, and ReAnimator Coffee. We open up our Philly build-outs for the year with a Lancaster transplant, getting set to open their very first shop in the big city.
Square One Coffee is well known to us here at Sprudge because of their years of involvement in the United States coffee competition circuit, where their team has served as judges and volunteers in addition to fielding a top competitor, Hadassah Wilson, who progressed all the way to the United States Barista Championship semi-finals in 2014. Their new cafe opens in Philadelphia’s Center City at the end of June.
As told to Sprudge by Sarah E. Shirk.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your company, and how it all got started?
Josh & Jess Steffy purchased Square One Coffee in 2007, back in its days as an internet cafe in downtown Lancaster, PA. Over the past 7 years they have implemented major changes, bringing the shop into the specialty coffee industry and nurturing a growing roasting and wholesale operation. Square One has grown from 5 to 19 employees in the past 7 years, and has relentlessly focused on improving the quality of our coffee and our service.
Can you tell us a bit about your new space?
Our new Philadelphia location is happily situated in the Gayborhood, between Spruce and Locust on 13th Street. We are on the ground floor of the John C. Anderson building, an LGBT friendly community for low-income, retirement aged folks. Our cafe is 1,800 sq. ft., with an island bar and service area in the center, and tables and bench seating all around the perimeter. In the back of the shop, we have an enclosed cupping lab. We have sidewalk seating along the front of the building on 13th St.
What’s your approach to serving coffee?
We have a passion for coffee and a simple belief that people matter, an uncompromising commitment to excellence, and a dedication to responsible practices. We believe that everyone involved in the long chain of hands involved in producing an amazing cup of coffee should be able to lead a dignified life. We seek to build relationships, and to serve the best coffee we possibly can.
You’ve got a beautiful GB5–any other brewing modes, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We’re using a La Marzocco 3-group GB5, the same machine we have in our Lancaster shop. We love its reliability and consistency. Our manual brew bar will feature Baratza Forte grinders and Beehouse and Chemex brewers. We’re excited to debut a new Colombian coffee from Finca Filadelfia (you can’t make this stuff up!) sourced through Cafe Imports. We’ve got a great little video coming out soon with footage from Finca Filadelfia itself.
What’s your hopeful target opening month? We’re shooting to open later this month–everything is ready to go but we are still working our way through the process of obtaining all the relevant permits.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
We’re stoked to feature the woodwork of Jonathan Bancroft Colon of The Bancroft Collaborative. Bancroft is a Lancaster-based artist who custom built all the furniture for both our Lancaster and Philadelphia locations. We also rely heavily on the excellent work of Jason Pohlig, our in-house design and graphics director. Jason was intimately involved in the design of the Philadelphia location. But it must be said that the overall vision, aesthetic, and layout is the brainchild of owner Jess Steffy. Her guiding vision brought this entire project into being.
Photos by Josh Steffy, Jason Pohlig, and Hadassah Wilson.
Are you deep in the throes of a sweaty summer build-out? Let us know about it!