When Frank Warren moved to Franklin Avenue, he had no intention of opening a coffee shop. The former pharmaceutical salesman was just looking for a place to live.
“I was here for about a year and a half, and I didn’t even really think about putting a business here,” Warren said. “But I got laid off from my job, and I was like, 'I don’t want to go back to corporate America.'”
Corporate America’s loss is the neighborhood’s gain--Warren and his business partner Jason Morgan used the layoff as an opportunity, opening the Breukelen Coffee House on Franklin Ave. (between Lincoln Pl. and St. Johns Pl.) in October of 2009.
The shop serves Stumptown coffee (single origin Ethiopian beans for the drip coffee, Hair Bender blend for the espresso) along with iced and hot teas, chai lattes, and a rich hot chocolate. If you get hungry, there are bagels from Terrace Bagels and pastries from Balthazar.
It’s obvious that most of the customers are coming for more than coffee. Warren and his staff greet regulars with smiles and first names, providing the kind of atmosphere that was lacking on the block when the Breukelen Coffee House opened two years ago.
“It seemed like it was something the neighborhood needed at the time,” Warren said. “I always get nice and cozy in neighborhood coffee shops and this neighborhood just didn’t really have one, especially this strip.”
Recent renovations have made the Breukelen Coffee House even more welcoming. A large room in the back opened three months ago, making room for six or seven large tables with plenty of workspace, natural light, and even electrical outlets (an increasing rarity among coffee shops). Customers can be found typing on laptops and catching up with friends; during Hurricane Irene there was a crowd playing board games.
Warren says the new seating area has made a difference.
“That’s what really solidified our place in the neighborhood. Because prior to that, we didn’t have the space,” Warren explained. “Now we have some space, and I’m looking at some additional improvements to the front, possibly a whole front redesign, to accommodate the growing neighborhood.”
Growing is right--Warren ran down the list of nearby restaurants and bars that have opened in the last two years, including Dutch Boy, the Candy Rush, and the new Chavella’s space.
“It just kind of exploded over the last two years. I think it’s a prelude of things to come,” Warren said.
In the meantime, Warren and Morgan (who is currently away serving in the military) continue to make the Breukelen Coffee House bigger and better. They briefly served sandwiches but found it was too much to handle at the time. They hope to expand their food options again soon with offerings from other local spots.
You can expect to see more events in the future, such as jam sessions and improv comedy. The art on the walls will be changing more frequently, too--they hope to do a new show every three months.
Warren is anxious to finish up renovations so he can really focus on what he calls “the fun stuff,” like events, but judging by the number of customers hanging around at 11:00am on a weekday, the Breukelen Coffee House already has everything it needs to be the cozy neighborhood coffee shop Warren and Morgan set out to build two years ago.
“I think we’re an interesting place,” Warren said. “We started really small, and we’re all the time trying to evolve. We started with less money than we needed, and now we’re slowly but surely getting to where we need to be. There’s this one last big push that needs to happen before we’re done with the whole thing, so forgive us if we don’t seem crazy put together yet, but we’ll get there.”
The Breukelen Coffee House, 764 Franklin Avenue # A, between Lincoln Pl. and St. Johns Pl.
Mon - Fri 7:00 am-7:00 pm, Sat - Sun 8:00 am-8:00 pm