Another day, another build.
This time we’re hearing a story we’ve seen again and again here at Build-Outs—folks with big city coffee experience move to a town where the pace of life is a bit slower, and there’s not much around in the way of a good espresso shot, so they dig in and build their own little slice of caffeinated heaven. That’s the story in Cahaba Heights—suburban Birmingham, Alabama—where Josh and Melanie Cosio have put out their shingle as Cala Coffee, converting an enviably large old building into a coffee bar and roastery to serve the community delicious coffee. “Coffee should be fun, not pretentious,” they tell us, and to that end they’re working with excellent gear (courtesy of La Marzocco and Mill City Roasters) to tell the story of coffee’s culinary possibilities without artifice or fuss. This exciting new cafe will open in November of 2022—let’s take a closer look.
As told to Sprudge by Josh Cosio.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
We’re Josh and Melanie Cosio and together we are Cala Coffee.
Born and raised in California (Cala = California + Alabama), we moved to Birmingham, AL in the summer of 2016 without ever stepping foot in the state before. We planned to finish out a one-year internship here and then move on to our next adventure (100% NOT staying in Alabama for long). After Melanie got accepted into the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at UAB (Go Blazers!), we decided to stick around for a few more years—and started setting roots in Cahaba Heights.
Fast forward FIVE years and we are so happy with the community and support system that we have found here in BHM.
We have loved getting to serve the Cahaba Heights community through Melanie’s work at Birmingham Physical Therapy and coaching at CrossFit Mudtown, but we always felt like something was missing. Cahaba Heights needed a local coffee shop!
In 2021, we started roasting our coffee (thanks, COVID), which then led to building a coffee cart (shout out to Welcome Coffee Cart). We have had so much fun interacting with people through the cart, that we decided to dive in headfirst in 2022. We are excited, and scared to death, to begin building out our first brick-and-mortar location in Cahaba Heights this year!
We like coffee, but love serving others. Our goal with Cala Coffee is to serve our local community and be a little bright spot in your daily routine. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy some of our fresh-roasted coffee, rent our cart for your next event, or come see us at a pop-up this year!
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
We are working with an award-winning architect to build the first local coffee shop in our neighborhood! Our building is an old 2,400-square-foot building that we will be renovating into our roastery, coffee shop, and community space. The shop will feature indoor and outdoor seating, with 15′ garage doors connecting the indoor seating to the outdoor patio. Our roastery will be visible to the public through a glass wall. The space will be designed with a flexible area that we can use to host pop-ups from some of our favorite small businesses!
What’s your approach to coffee?
We use coffee as a tool to create good days! People love coffee but, more importantly, they love being a part of a community of like-minded people. We want to offer the best roasted coffee we can, but our primary focus is using coffee as a tool to serve our community and provide a welcoming space for everyone. We want to be innovative, and not afraid to bend the traditional rules when it comes to roasting and coffee recipes. Coffee should be fun, not pretentious. Internally, we want to help support the supply chain and the earth, by working with farms and suppliers that operate ethically and sustainably.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We currently roast on another roaster’s Mill City 10kg, and plan to buy our own for the roastery. We also plan to use a La Marzocco Linea PB for the coffee bar. We are also interested in exploring the Marco cold coffee dispensers.
How is your project considering sustainability?
Rather than building new, the Cala Coffee has made its space in a repurposed industrial metal shed that previously housed office space and a car wash before that. The efficient design maximizes the potential of the reused structure with broad bifold doors that open widely, creating a flexible indoor-outdoor space and bringing natural light and air in.
This healthy indoor air environment is preserved by prioritizing low- and no-VOC materials and adhesives throughout. An emphasis on natural materials and durable finishes limits resource use and maintenance needs.
The landscaping plan includes drought-tolerant native plantings to attract local pollinators.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
November 1, 2022
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Architect/Designer: Amanda Loper from David Baker Architects. In 2021, she received a national AIA Young Architect Award for her work in design, policy, and bringing social awareness to issues of housing and density in the urban setting.
Graphic Designer: Andrew Thomson