When Art House Coffees started roasting out of the back of an art studio in Maplewood four years ago, the focus wasn't really on coffee. It was started as an arm of Bridges Support Services to give jobs to people with disabilities or barriers to employment. Soon, though, the coffee started selling like crazy at farmers' markets across the city -- now it's time for a real space to showcase Art House's brews.
"Everything was kind of working really progressively, and we realized we wanted to actually have a public house where we can have a little bit more community interaction," says manager Chris Phillips. "We realized through farmers' markets that we really like talking with people and like people to get involved and be involved with us."
Phillips says Art House has had its eye on the Black Cat Theatre on Sutton Boulevard for a while, but it's been stuck in "nonprofit limbo" until David Schlafly acquired the building and worked out a deal with Art House. Construction on the space should be finished in mid-August, when Phillips and his business partner Nate Larson will move in the wholesale and bottling operations, plus the mobile coffee cart.
"The Living Room is going to be our community hub, and we're not doing any automated brewing with our coffee -- we like to carry on the story of how delicate and important the human interaction is with coffee," Phillips says. "The type of beans we source are all single-origin Arabic and need to be hand-picked, hand-brewed, so we like to carry on that philosophy. We believe that every cup should be brewed for the individual and done with great care."
The cafe won't have a full menu, but Phillips says he and Larson really like the trend of pop-up restaurants, so there will be an element of that: lunch one day a week, with fresh ingredients from a garden out back. Other than that, Art House's baked goods will be available.
There will eventually be a nighttime element to the Living Room, with Joel Burton, formerly of Taste (4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200), creating some cocktails for a pop-up bar and outdoor events in the Black Cat Theatre's large parking lot.
"We're just figuring a lot of things out right now and keeping along with the way we've let the company grow thus far, which is very organically and letting it come to us as far as where we go next," Phillips says. Look for the Living Room to open at 2808 Sutton Boulevard in Maplewood this fall, and the mobile coffee cart will be at farmers' markets around the city.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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