Man has a long history of replacing and repurposing the old with the new, especially when it comes to their places of ritual. The old or outdated accept renovation, often whether or not the regulars accept it themselves. For instance, Hagia Sophia, a world-famous historic site in Istanbul, currently exists as a museum. But its long history includes nearly 1,000 years of Eastern Orthodoxy (with a hint of Roman Catholicism) and another 500 years serving as a mosque after the Turks conquered then-Constantinople.
Now, that may be a dramatic example, and you’re saying “what the hell does this have to do with coffee other than being Turkish?”, but go with me for a minute… When your favorite local neighborhood coffee shop stagnates or falls on hard times and subsequently sells or rebrands to something foreign and unfamiliar, what do you do? Do you find an acceptable local alternative? Do you take matters into your own hands and become a home-brewer? Do you convert?
Kaldi’s Coffee of St. Louis, MO and PT’s Coffee of Topeka, KS have both landed in Kansas City, reinvigorating the long-lasting LatteLand locations and The Crossroads Coffeehouse, respectively. This is the first foray into the Kansas City retail coffee market for each of these roasters and they’ve simultaneously unveiled beautiful and respectful rebrands to the community.
The key to these redesigns seems to be in maintaining familiar fixtures through the process and in each case, keeping the previous establishments’ baristas on hand has proven instrumental. After all, customers come to trust their baristas, so who better to sell a scary new product than the familiar face of your daily commute to work?
In the case of Kaldi’s, the baristas of LatteLand have been dutifully serving Kaldi’s coffee in all six of their retail locations since 2007. When LatteLand officially sold to Kaldi’s in 2013 after a steady partnership, it was less surprising than it was timely. And in the modern day, it’s kind of a relief to not have to say you’re stepping out your door to get a coffee at a place called LatteLand.
Gone are the lime-green walls and pint-sized individual tables. In their stead are calm muted tones, natural wood, and simple textures. The track lights and imposing menu board have made way for an eclectic collection of various fixtures and bulbs, and a wall-mounted menu board beautifully hand-chalked by Kaldi’s own KC barista, Laura Clark (@azn_barista).
Where once sat an array of airpots, Mazzer grinders, and a La Marzocco espresso machine now sits Kansas City’s first Victoria Arduino Black Eagle espresso machine and not one or two, but THREE Mythos espresso grinders. When you talk about playing with new toys, these are the newest toys on the block and it’s hard not to get excited.
The shelves are neatly stocked with classy and simple new Kaldi’s merchandise, as well as all of your standard home coffee brewing equipment and paraphernalia. And as an added bonus, you can still bump into Doc Brown with his time traveling Delorean most weekend afternoons at the 47th Street location.
The PT’s/Crossroads transition was a little more recent in the making. PT’s officially purchased the Crossroads Coffeehouse in March of this year and renovated the space in May. The first order of business was removing the imposing bar structure in favor of an updated low-profile workspace more conducive to both barista and customer interaction.
“I think the customer experience has been improved from a service stand point,” said PT’s co-owner Jeff Taylor. “The beautiful new tables encourage community, which is always part of our goal.”
The new menu reflects a contemporary trend in coffee, offering a simple breakdown of black, white, specialty, and “not coffee”. Specialty items include a number of new drinks including a Nitro Cold Brew and an Espresso Milkshake, however my current go-to has been a shot of single origin espresso with a fresh limeade caboose.
Food options made in house include sandwiches and salads using local ingredients including meat selections from Local Pig and breads from Wheatfields Bakery in Lawrence, KS. More local projects are coming soon, including a chocolate bar developed in collaboration with world renowned Kansas City chocolatier Christopher Elbow.
When it comes to opening a coffee shop, place is important and creating the right energy is a difficult task. So against one’s sentimental tendencies, when that well-worn coffee shop of yesteryear is respectfully and tastefully rebranded to the classy and contemporary, this is a moment to rejoice.
Charlie Burt is a graphic designer, photographer, and Sprudge.com contributor based in Kansas City. Read more Charlie Burt on Sprudge.