Coffee shops have long been communal spaces, where folks from all walks of life can come together and freely exchange ideas, and as such they’ve often been radical places. The same is true today, with many shops actively fighting for equality across a broad spectrum of social issues. One such place that continues this tradition of the communal coffee space is Elementary Coffee Co in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Their radical idea? Inclusivity.
After five years as a coffee stand, Elementary is taking over a nearly-three-decades-abandoned building in the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg’s Midtown neighborhood. Their vision for this new location is a space to promote social justice, support radical events and protests, fight for workers rights, and be an inclusive work space pushing “a non-capitalist business model in an overwhelmingly capitalist society.” It’s a space for all, it’s Elementary Coffee in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
As told to Sprudge by Andrea Grove.
For those who aren’t familiar, will you tell us about your company?
Elementary Coffee Co. was established way back in November of 2014. Our mission was to cut through any specialty coffee pretentiousness and potential exclusivity by simply creating a friendly coffee stand in arguably the most important meeting place of the diverse Harrisburg community: the historic Broad Street Market. Since Elementary’s conception, we have been privileged to use our little stand (and added roastery) to develop a thriving coffee community in the Market and surrounding areas; teach the necessity of specialty coffee and the roasting process as it relates to promoting the farmer and origin, particularly in light of environmental change; stand up for social justice issues; host and support radical events and protests; fundraise for local, national, and international efforts and organizations; and, exemplify workers rights, equal pay, and inclusive work spaces as we continue to push a non-capitalist business model in an overwhelmingly capitalist society. Above all though, our ultimate goal has been to be the best friends, supporters, and helpers of the city that we know, love, and serve.
Can you tell us a bit about the new space?
After many years of searching and contemplating, we finally found a space that fit an independent location version of Elementary Coffee Co. This funny and strange little location had sat abandoned and dilapidated since 1990. Repairing, and consequently rebuilding, a building everyone through would be torn down has been challenging, exciting, rewarding, and exhausting. Working closely with Chris Dawson Architect and our project manager Misha Kaschock, we have developed a design that keeps the integrity of the original space, while building out a beautiful and functional small coffee shop and roastery to suit our ever-growing needs. When this space opens, it will be a continuation and expansion of everything Elementary has been working on for the past, almost, five years. And it will allow us to continue our work and dedication to the city for another five years and beyond.
What’s your approach to coffee?
Our approach to coffee is that it, in its nature, is to all and for all. It deserves to be accessible to everyone. We keep this concept at the core as we simultaneously pursue detailed roasting profiles, and more direct trade relationships with importers, while remembering that some folks just need a cup of coffee to warm up with in the wintertime. Specialty doesn’t have to mean economically inaccessible. Coffee, including and especially the specialty versions, is for everyone.
Any machines, coffees, special equipment lined up?
We are expanding into a “huge” three-group Synesso Hydra MVP! And we will finally be taking the pressure off of our arms and shoulders by investing in a duel FETCO batch brewer. We have been hand-brewing our batch brews in a 10-cup Chemex at the Market for the past five years.
How is your project considering sustainability?
Interestingly, one of the main reasons we desired to expand into independent space was to cut down on the need for single-use products. We are excited to finally be able to offer in-house cups and dishes. Additionally, the space is being constructed with environmental initiatives such as real vs. synthetic materials. Along with using raw slate, granite, and thick slices of walnut wood, it will be entirely vegan. We are finally are adding an afterburner component to our roaster for cleaner emissions. The space is equipped with a tankless green model water heater and ductless HVAC for variable interior temperature control. Trees have been planted outside to shade our windows and offset cooling demands and the back driveway has been constructed with stone permeable pavers to absorb rainfall.
What’s your hopeful target opening date/month?
September. Hopefully towards the beginning!
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Mikhail Kaschock, Kenneth Jackson, Pinnacle Drywall, Lynn Woolcock Painting, Bob Means Plumbing, Chris Dawson Architect, Donchek Electrical, Chris Gelts, Qui Qui Musarra, Matthew Krupp, Squar.co, and so many other good and amazing souls that have come together to make this project happen!
You’re so very welcome. Thank you. And thank you for inspiring the specialty coffee world!
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