Sump Coffee owner Scott Carey always wanted to have a coffee shop in Nashville.
Soon, he will.
The St. Louis cafe and roasting operation will touch down in the Music City this fall, joining the 19-acre ONEC1TY development growing in West Nashville close to Vanderbilt University.
Carey was introduced to the development team at One C1TY through wholesale partner and 2015 James Beard award winning Chef Gerard Craft, who is opening a location of his casual Italian restaurant Pastaria at One C1TY.
After initially making the One C1TY development team coffee at his shop, Carey says a dialogue began and he started exploring the market.
“It's a population and a demographic that is seeking novel experiences and is really embracing what's happening there [in Nashville],” Carey says. “We want to be part of that. We just got lucky in that we had this meeting, and started this relationship, and also really enjoyed the market, for as different as it is from the St. Louis market.”
The original Sump Coffee location sits inside a 130-year-old property in South City, with exposed brick and reclaimed wood from the building. There's a spartan feel to the cafe. Since Carey will be designing within new construction in a 1,500-square-foot area, he's still figuring out how to bring a “DIY aesthetic” to the space and keep the focus on coffee. One main goal for the space is to increase an efficient workflow behind the bar.
“What we've talked [about], with respect to the designer we're working with, is, ‘Can we avoid Coffee Shop 101 missteps now?'” Carey says. “Nashville's got a very sophisticated coffee market, it's very well-developed. You've got Crema, you've got Barista Parlor, you've got Steadfast, you've got some pretty significant players that have already created the texture of that environment. We're coming in, and we don't want to repeat that texture. We want to contribute and add to that environment, as opposed to be kind of a, ‘Me too. Look at me, too' kind of thing.”
Some big differences that Carey noted between his St. Louis location and the impending Nashville outpost were the hours and equipment for the cafe. The Nashville location will feature more traditional coffee shop hours, such as 7 a.m.–7 p.m., as opposed to the 8 a.m.–4 p.m. “soccer mom hours” at the St. Louis location.
Carey will not be bringing down a Diedrich roaster or Slayer espresso machine either, two stalwarts of the St. Louis shops. For example, he cites Nashville cafes Barista Parlor and Revelator Coffee using the Slayer, and would like to open up new forms of dialogue about coffee vis-a-vis his equipment choices. Carey has purchased a Kees van der Westen for use in the new cafe. Roasting plans include following in the Nordic-style roast profiles Carey fell in love with originally, and to source great single-estate and single-origin coffees without blending. Opportunities to collaborate with other Nashville companies are being explored, just like how Sump has partnered up in St. Louis.
“We don't want to be a carpet bagger,” Carey says. “We want to contribute to that maker spirit, that craft market. Being able to see that, it's getting less and less so as a differentiator, but being able to see that in the same space you're consuming coffee is something that is starting to happen in that market, but is not at least to a saturation point.”
There's still a lot of work to be done on their Nashville outpost, but Carey and the Sump Coffee team are excited about the challenge. Carey admitted he was a bit nervous, but there's a lot of enthusiasm tempering his nerves.
“I'm excited about maybe some of the changes that we're going to make so that we can be even more customer-centric focused,” Carey says. “The machines we're looking at are not going to be requiring us to be timing and weighing every shot, so there can be more engagement. I'm excited about roasting on a machine that has a different roast architecture, and to see what we can produce. I'm excited about being in that market and swimming in the same pool, hopefully, with the other creatives and the other makers that are making that an exciting place to be right now. Just like I'm excited in St. Louis about, again, being connected to the other makers and creators in this market.”
Evan C. Jones is a Sprudge.com contributor based in St. Louis. Read more Evan C. Jones on Sprudge.