Sweetleaf Coffee has opened a new cafe and roastery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, just on the other side of the Pulaski Bridge from their original Jackson Avenue shop in Long Island City.
Housed in an old warehouse building at 159 Freeman Street, the flagship space sits right off of busy Manhattan Avenue in the north end of the historically Polish neighborhood. Cafes including Búðin, Propeller Coffee, and Champion Coffee are all within a few blocks’ radius, so the shop is in good company.
After sharing a roaster with Lofted Coffee Roasters in Bushwick for the past year, owner Rich Nieto began the search for a roastery of his own. Although he had no plans to open a fourth cafe (in addition to two shops in Long Island City, he has another location in Williamsburg), the space was so ideally built for a joint roastery and coffee shop operation that he felt he had no choice.
The space itself is very industrial, with exposed brick walls, high wooden-beam ceilings, and two large garage doors that roll up to sidewalk seating. An existing wall divides the space quite naturally into a back and front room, so a sliding wooden door was added, with windows allowing customers to peek behind the scenes and glimpse the shop's 15-kilo Joper roaster.
The interior is decorated with antique furniture, including pillars, ornate chandeliers, iron and wood tables and chairs, and an old church pew that serves as a merchandise shelf. Seating is abundant, and comes in the form of schoolhouse benches from India and wooden lounge chairs reupholstered with burlap Red Fox Coffee Merchants coffee bags—the company through which Nieto does most of his green sourcing. At the center of the shop is the luxuriously roomy bar space, with an island countertop and plenty of room for baristas to move around freely.
A selection of tasty pastries are made in the back by in-house bakers, including generously sized sweet and savory scones, quick breads, croissants, and even dog biscuits.
“Whenever the bakers have new pastries for me to try, I’ll taste them with the coffee cupping mentality in mind,” Nieto says. “I’ll taste a bite of a cookie and spit it into a paper bag, move on to the next thing and spit it out into the bag, and the bakers will look at me, what the hell are you doing?” he laughs.
The neighborhood has eagerly awaited Sweetleaf’s grand opening, which is today. A slow but steady flow of customers stopped in last Saturday morning during their soft opening hours, many of whom the baristas already knew by name. “One customer has already told me that they used to actually walk across the Pulaski Bridge to the Jackson Avenue shop for a coffee, and walk back, so they’re excited to have us right here in their neighborhood,” Nieto says.