Something Special is Brewing at The Coffee Experiment Peabody
PEABODY – The Coffee Experiment is brewing something special at this pop-up experience that launches in downtown Peabody this week. The stylish café is fueled by Jaho Coffee of Salem, provides a hip, much-needed gathering place, and will hopefully be a catalyst for further development in the corridor.
Pedro Soto, Peabody’s city planner, has been at the forefront of this project since taking his position over a year ago. He reviewed 10 to 12 years of previous reports about downtown for inspiration and project ideas upon his arrival. The focus had been downtown revitalization and enhancing the quality of life in Peabody, a community popular among young families. Reports continued to indicate there was a need for places to get together in the downtown corridor that would help counterbalance the amenities elsewhere in the community.
“As a planner, we talk about third places. First place is your home. Second place is your work. Third place is anywhere else you hang out with your friends and meet people,” Pedro explained. “We knew that we needed more third places downtown.”
It was not going to be easy to draw companies downtown, however the idea of using a parklet to create opportunities for piloting potential development ideas seemed logical. This tactic would allow the city to gather more research about what residents wanted. After receiving funding from MassDevelopment where Pedro is an adjunct fellow, the city held a lengthy community engagement process, and North Shore CDC hosted a youth build to assemble the parklet. It has six different configurations: two for vending, two for performances, and two for supplemental seating for other events. It is mobile, and requires minimal labor to reassemble.
Last fall, the city held two well-attended a pop-up events: a coffeehouse hosted by Atomic Café of Beverly and a pub sponsored by the Boston Beer Company of Jamaica Plain to raise funds for programming with the Peabody Cultural Collaborative.
“Not a lot of people show up to planning meetings. We really looked at these two events as opportunities to engage the public, and get their feedback while asking what do you want to see downtown,” Pedro admitted candidly. “It was pretty clear people wanted places to gather and hang out. The data we got was supporting the data that we had gotten for the last twelve years.”
As the team began planning potential events for this year, the community development office realized they had data and financial capital that could support a move from the temporary to the permanent. They developed relationships with several local businesses and organizations to create what is perhaps one of the most unique public-private partnerships currently in Massachusetts with a mix of funding sources that included money from Peabody’s Community Development Block Grant.
“This type of project is one of the few in the state that we were able to find,” Pedro said. “This is very unique because we controlled so much of the design as we knew what the need in the community was.”
Pedro’s cohort at MassDevelopment had been focused on igniting retail reactivation by thinking outside of the box, and he has shared the vision at three conferences already. His colleagues have been very interested and supportive with many dissecting which parts of this project they might too be able to replicate.
“We’re not only looking at this as an awesome thing for Peabody, but also are really excited to pilot this for other communities. We want to see what parts of this can be replicated elsewhere as it has a lot of ingredients appropriate for the gateway cities,” Pedro said.
It was no easy task serving as project manager for The Coffee Experiment, however Pedro enjoyed working with the diverse group that pulled off this seemingly monumental task. The easiest part was sharing the vision and getting potential partners on board. It didn’t take as much convincing as Pedro had thought it might as they also saw and understood the need for the innovation behind the project. They wanted to be a part of it.
“One of the most fun things for me has been to sit down with the creatives. I’m an artist myself, and it’s been awesome to have this blank canvas that we bring the talents of so many people to create this space,” Pedro noted. “The hardest part has been understanding the realities of construction, getting over hurdle after hurdle, and keeping that momentum moving forward.”
The café will offer a variety of Fair Trade certified coffees as well as pastries, panini sandwiches and espresso-based drinks. The shop will also be carrying Jaho’s signature espresso drink, the Scarlet Espresso, a spicy dark chocolate espresso infused with hazelnut and coconut notes and a crème Brule finish.
“Jaho is testing it out for six weeks, and we are really hopefully there’s enough demand and they have a really nice reception. They’re excited about being in an untapped market,” Pedro explained. “We know we have an awesome product. We have a really cool and hip place.”
The café’s interior was designed by Joey Nicotera of Retonica Event Lighting who is also a Peabody resident. He describes it as offering a hip but comfortable vibe, using almost exclusively hand-made and up-cycled materials from local artisans and businesses. There is a delicate blend of natural materials balanced by darker ceiling and wall colors. Joey hopes patrons feel as if they are in a local coffeehouse you’d see on television or in a film.
“It was important to procure materials and products from local Peabody businesses as much as possible,” Joey said.
The team worked with Andrew Buonfiglio of Figsburry Creative Group to develop the shop’s branding and signage. They are also working with Creative Salem to market and promote the shop while also planning special programming to activate the space. They will host an exciting experience with music and artists as well as a business and entrepreneurial-focused function.
“Creative Salem loves partnering with people like Pedro who are thinking outside the box to grow their cities while truly valuing the artists and creatives as well. He understands they can have a direct impact on the viability of a thriving community and downtown that we are excited to help cultivate in Peabody,” said Chief Creative Officer John Andrews.
Partners and in-kind contributors for the project included the City of Peabody’s Department of Community Development and Planning, Jaho Coffee, Northfield Properties, Mass Development, Ocean House Surf, Creative Salem, Retonica Event Lighing, Figsburry Creative Group, Hank’s Plumbing and Heating, artist Jessica Andersen, artist Geoff Bloom, Cranney Home Services, carpentry by Robert Conard, The Friendly Farm Antiques, Clifton Cache, Terenzoni Construction, The Prop Factory, Teresa’s Crafters Boutique, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute students Juan Bernabe, Evans “Tito” Diaz, and Franciny Lichtenberg under the direction of Mr. Kevin Green. Community volunteers included Robert Conard, Chrissy Kobyljanec, Mike Lazarus, Pedro Lazarus Soto, Matt Mogavero, Linda Nicotera, Joe Nicotera, Erin Schaeffer, Hannah Shmase, and Ross Titelbaum.
The Coffee Experiment’s configuration is also making it possible for the shop to pilot the location as an informal co-working space. There are two large tables that seat four at each that could be used separately or together for local businesses and entrepreneurs to come and meet clients or hold formal or informal staff meetings. Some locals have already popped in, noting a desire for this type of space for this purpose. They will be tracking data related to these customers as well in order to further gauge demand.
“If there are 10 or 15 entrepreneurs in the area who work from home, it would probably make sense to rent a space, have tables and an open-work plan, and make a place for them so they can call downtown home,” Pedro imagined.
The Coffee Experiment Peabody is currently holding a soft opening with limited hours, however, they will hold an official grand opening with Mayor Ted Bettencourt along with other dignitaries, officials, and partners in the coming week to officially launch the six-week pop-up program. They are located at 67 Main Street in Peabody, Massachusetts. Patrons can access public parking lots are located on Mill Street, Nichols Street, and directly across the street behind the Peabody Institute Library or street parking at paid meters along Main Street.
The Coffee Experiment Photo Gallery
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