Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Menagerie Coffee

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 yourselves.
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 ever since.

Where did the idea of opening a cafe come from?
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 shop. 

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 been? 
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 sponge.

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.

Coffee Collective (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 light. 

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! 

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