Bolt Coffee Company has made a name for itself in Providence through its commitment to quality coffee and customer service. What started as a pipe dream for two friends (a pop-up and catering-focused coffee cart) has blossomed into two physical locations with steady followings. The design of each of these cafes is striking and inarguably a part of their appeal.
The flagship Bolt Coffee Company makes its home in the lobby of The Dean Hotel, a place that exudes hip. ASH NYC, the real-estate management and design firm behind the hotel, pegged Bolt as a perfect fit for a cafe space that functions not only as a spot for refreshments but also as a concierge of sorts.
The Dean Hotel offers a unique experience; a place where commuters in suits grab a morning cup of coffee while sleepy hotel patrons munch on Knead Doughnuts (a bakery also owned by Bolt) in their pajamas. Here, visitors ask their baristas for dinner recommendations while regulars report on their weekend activities. The walls are bright white, the accents are stark black, and the seating is communal.
A ten-minute walk from The Dean Hotel, off Providence’s famously steep College Hill, is the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, and within it, Bolt Coffee Company’s second location. The folks at RISD experienced the unique flow between hotel and coffee shop at The Dean and looked to incorporate it into their redesign of the museum’s lobby space.
This foyer—named Café Pearl after Pearl Nathan, the museum’s longest-serving volunteer docent—was designed by Ben and Aja Blanc, a husband and wife design team and RISD alumni. Here, coffee and food are served beneath impossibly high ceilings, bathed in the glow of light from decidedly unique fixtures. Marble tiles cover the walls and light-toned wood tables contrast the dark wooden floors.
Mark Hundley, Bolt's manager, says, “Coffee is a big focus for us, but our biggest focus is trying to be nice to people.” Sounds simple, but the difference is apparent. Setting the customer service bar this high in spaces that could be easily shrugged off as pretentiously chic redefines expectations. Style, quality, and kindness all can be found under one roof. Or in Bolt's case—under two roofs.
Note: Pearl Nathan recently passed away at 103 years old. She will be missed by the local art community and remembered through Café Pearl and by the people who frequent it.
Eric Tessier is a freelance journalist based in Providence, RI. Read more Eric Tessier on Sprudge.