A few months back Sam and I were contacted by Elysa DiMauro from Philadelphia who is a fan of the blog. She would soon be opening her own cafe in the Old City of Philadelphia with April Nett, and so we were able to discuss our love for coffee, Scandinavia, and cafe interiors. Well, the cafe is now open, and looks beautiful. Sam and I were not able to go photograph it, but the Philadelphian photographer Katrina Ohstrom
was. Below are a few photos that she has let us use, as well as an interview with Elysa and April. Take a look, especially at the image used on the far wall, maybe you will recognize it (!!), and if you're in the Philadelphia area, make sure to stop by Menagerie Coffee!
Please tell us a little bit about
Elysa: I'm originally from the Philadelphia
area; I grew up in the suburbs but went to college in the Midwest where I
studied music performance at Northwestern University and then did a masters at
University of Wisconsin-Madison. I moved back to Philadelphia to pursue a
career in music actually. I play French horn and have done a bunch of
freelancing and teaching.
April: I'm a displaced Wisconsinite that
longed to live on the east coast and therefore found it very convenient to move
with Elysa to Philly.
How did you two meet?
April and I met in Madison,
WI. We had a bunch of mutual friends and worked at the same coffee shop, only
at different times. The night we met, we realized that we only lived one
building away from each other; that was five years ago and we've been together
Where did the idea of opening a cafe
The service industry has
always been an important part of our lives whether it was how we paid for our
schooling or just a summer job, so it seemed only natural once we actually
decided to open our our space. Aside from being just a job, it turned into a
form of socializing and became about developing the craft aspect of the work.
Service positions for those who are interested can be so multifaceted, so one's
daily tasks 1.) rarely feel like tasks because you're learning and experiencing
all kinds of things and 2.) the shift ends and you don't even feel like you
were at work. If all goes as planned, the "job" becomes an elaborate
dance that begins and ends but can really be beautifully nuanced throughout.
Plus all our friends were the people we worked with (and vice-versa). So in
summary, we loved our jobs..and that gave birth to the idea of opening our own
How did you decide on your location?
Philadelphia has so many great
specialty coffee shops. There really is one in every neighborhood - Elixr
Coffee is in Center City, Bodhi Coffee in Headhouse Square, Ultimo Coffee in
South Philly, Shot Tower in Queen Village, to name a few - and we're all
friends. We loved spending time in Old City because of the vibrant gallery and
boutique scene and the historic setting; the only thing missing for us was a
good cup of coffee.
What did you look to for inspiration when planning the cafe?
Wow...loaded question. We looked at
everything--literally. From our daily lives and routes we picked up patterns,
sequences, feelings, and visual ques. Blogs and imagery, artwork and
installations, past shop layouts and previous restaurant setups all really
informed the way we thought about and later, put together the shop. Building a
shop is like a sculptural experience; you put stuff up and take it away, try it
out for a while but discard that which doesn't quite fit. The Swedish film Kyss
Mig was largely instrumental in maintaining the missing cultural mentality we
wanted to create within our space. (Oh, and we were constantly looking at your
blog! Duh! And the blog bloodandchampagne.) Honestly, they were major hitters
when it came to the overall feel of the actual space.
Is there a concept for the space,
layout, aesthetic, atmosphere, etc?
Scandinavian farmhouse in a
metropolitan setting? Elemental without being austere. Everything had to serve
a purpose--aesthetically functional if you will.
Is there anything you would change?
We would add more outlets behind the
bar, change the zoning regulations so we could use our awesome basement for
seating, and install a central vacuum system.
How has the first few weeks of opening
It's been really wonderful. The first
couple days we experienced emotions that neither of us had ever felt before
(which was scary-exciting) and we just approach everyday with focus,
excitement, and determination to do a little better than the day before. At
this point it's still too early to analyze or start looking for patterns, but
hopefully the next couple weeks we'll be able to see some trends and really get
a feel for how the shop will progress.
Any advice for a person wanting to open
their own cafe?
Get your ducks in a row first and then
take that risk. Put in 10% more work each day than you think you need to and
never stop tasting your products. Be open to experiencing everything; become a
What are some of your favorite coffee
shops/cafes and why?
Patricia (Melbourne)--it's absolutely
beautiful. Simple and elegant design, and I'm sure their coffee is delicious!
Perhaps one day we'll get to visit.
Bradbury's (Madison, Wi)-- farm to
table approach, hyper local ingredients and coffee. Little space but cozy.
(Denmark)--aesthetics, simplicity, embodies the cultural interior that we
wanted to replicate but in our own terms.
Cafe Ost (NYC)--wine and coffee under
same roof, shabby-chic and semi-French vibe. Large windows with lots of natural
ACE (NYC)--straight up impressive that
such a small place can crank out such volume! Unbelievable.
Craftsmen & Wolves (San Fran)--
elegant, radiant, polished fare
There you have it guys!