One of the big coffee stories of 2013 was the explosion of interesting new coffee shops in smaller markets across the United States, and that exciting trend is certainly continuing as our Build-Outs of Summer series rolls on in 2014. The latest example is The Shop, in the Fox Point neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island. Providence has had a history of interesting coffee shops, thanks to both its status as a college town, and the hard work of local coffee companies like New Harvest Coffee Roasters, whose annual MANE conference is a noteworthy gathering for entrepreneurs and coffee professionals in the American northeast.
It was at MANE 2012 where John Paul Murton was first encouraged to open what would become The Shop. Mr. Murton was kind enough to share some background on the construction of his new cafe, which celebrated a soft opening on July 2nd.
As told by John Paul Murton.
Introduce us to your project–how did The Shop get started?
My wife, Diana, and I moved up here from NYC in 2010 after we had our daughter. We searched Providence for a year, even looking as far afield as Newport, until we found the community we want to call home. Fox Point has a great mix of New England charm, DIY leanings, and university-town counterculture. And it has one of the city's oldest coffee institutions as a centerpiece of its commercial district. It's on the verge of becoming something great, I can feel it.
Can you tell us a bit about your new space?
We found the space itself in a 175 year-old house that had its first floor converted to store fronts who-knows-how-long-ago. The foundation is actually still stonewall construction, which I had never seen in my hometown of Pittsburgh, or in New York City (where I worked in restaurants for 8 years), and we had to tear through 2 ceilings, 3 floors and 4 layers of wall to get down to the bones of the place. It was worth it, though, the dimensions of it are great.
We've made every effort to preserve the integrity of the original building and avoided doing things cheap and easy (with the exception of dry wall, we just couldn't afford to sit and watch plaster dry). We had to tear off the old facade because its entire foundation had rotted away, but we framed it back up with wood, kept the big windows, and found a ‘new' front door at the only salvage yard still operational in Rhode Island; it's almost as old as the building itself. We have oak pilings pulled from the Boston Harbor for our drink rails and 100 year old, never-been-treated Vermont maple from one of the many now-defunct Providence mills for our floors (Allen St, to be precise). And, while I know we're not getting any points for novelty with all this, we didn't do it for the cool factor or to try to make ourselves feel good, we did it because we want to preserve the sense of place that gets lost in a lot of build-outs.
What’s your approach to serving coffee?
We'll be serving:
—Stumptown coffee: rotating single origin selections batch-brewed on our Fetco throughout the day, serving housemade Nitro Cold Brew coffee (not dissimilar from the offering at Stumptown's 8th Street Coffee Bar in NYC), and pulling shots of espresso on our sexy new black-blue La Marzocco GB5.
–Full tea service with loose leaf from In Pursuit of Tea,
–Simple small bites that actually offer nutritional value other than bread and sugar.
–No chemical sweeteners around, and little of the refined stuff anywhere. We cut ourselves a little slack with the chocolate chip cookie from Illuminated Oven, I mean it's not like it's supposed to be health food, right? And it's damn delicious.
–Grass-fed milk from Munroe. They source unpasteurized milk from CT then process it themselves so they have direct control of the quality, which we like.
–Handmade bread and confections with gluten-free and vegan options that are naturally that way (not adulterated forms of other stuff) from 3 local bakers: Foremost Bread Company, Humble Pie Company, and the aforementioned Illuminated Oven.
Bottom line, if we're going to serve it we have to know that it was well-sourced.
Are you working with craftspeople, architects, and/or creatives that you’d like to mention?
Jenn Radlinski. Jenn's an established designer but she's new-ish to New England and has been working tremendously hard for us. She's done it for next to nothing just because she believes in us, she's the kind of person who wants to contribute to the growth of her community. She developed the integrated work-flow/guest flow design of the counter/bar. She's personally designed all of the furniture, interior and exterior.