Hertel coffee shop owners bullish on city’s rebirth
Buffalo has been called the City of No Illusions, but maybe it can become the City of Opportunity. That’s the hope of a local couple who see signs of that happening all around them. WBFO contributor Rich Kellman has their story.
Hertel coffee shop owners bullish on city's rebirth
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Daily Planet Coffee Co. plans to open on Hertel Avenue on Black Friday.
Carside service will be available after 5 a.m., for shoppers looking for a caffeine infusion, said owner Michael Caputi.
The building, at 1862 Hertel Ave., at the corner of Parker Avenue, was known as the former Parker’s Pharmacy, but was most recently Encompass Coffee.
Caputi wants his business to be a place where people go for more than the coffee. “Our goal was not to just be a restaurant, but a third place, besides home and work, where people could get a sense of community,” Caputi said. “Maybe gather to play a game, or listen to music.”
During renovations he kept as much of the 1926 tin ceiling as possible, but also incorporated new features, Caputi said. To support his goal of becoming a community space, he’s built in a stage with sound system and lights, and two walls that he’d like to populate with local art.
The place won’t roast its own coffee, at first at least, trying to serve the best from local roasters, Caputi said. It’ll sell ground coffee, beans, tea, and coffee drinks like espresso and frozen drinks.
A light food menu will include scones, sweets and pastries, breakfast sandwiches, panini, and soup. “We do provide vegan and gluten-free offerings,” he said, and generally food offerings will be drawn from a variety of cultures.
“We want this to be a culturally diverse environment,” he said, “a place to congregate, meet, to visit with your friends.”
If someone asked you what sort of coffee shop you would open, given the opportunity, what would it be like? In a world where just about every corner has a coffee shop, it’s got to be tough to come up with a plan to make a mark in the industry. First you need a good location. Then you need an interesting branding concept. But more than anything else, you need to be passionate about coffee.
On Black Friday, Daily Planet Coffee Company opened on Hertel in North Buffalo. The business set up shop in a building that once housed Parker’s Pharmacy for over 70 years. Since that time, the corner has been home to myriad businesses, including a yoga studio, an ice cream shop, a chocolate shop, a bagel business and, of course, Checker’s Tavern (which was there before current building owner John Daly acquired the corner).
Daily Planet Coffee Company has opened directly on the corner, and has incorporated a second space within the building (the Pharmacy’s original soda shop located next door on Parker Avenue) into the mix. The first thing that Mike did was to take down the wall between the old soda shop and the larger space on the corner in order to create a more open and welcoming café. Next he repaired the original tin ceiling, painted, added wainscoting and sourced 1950s chairs. Then he added electrical outlets every five feet and installed a WiFi repeater to give customers the best surfing experience possible. “I wanted to keep the feel of the old neighborhood,” Mike said. “While updating the space at the same time. It’s comfortable and contemporary. Basically, the space that we took over is where the entire pharmacy once stood.”
When I asked Mike about the concept of the coffee shop, he didn’t hesitate to answer. “Do you know what a “Third Space” is?” he asked. I told him that I did not. “It’s not your home. It’s not where you work. It’s a space that you go to when you want to get away. A place that makes you feel comfortable. Where you can meet up with friends, family and neighbors. It’s a place that I felt was missing in Buffalo. A lot of the good old coffee shops feel like they have gone corporate. They have drifted away from simply having a great cup of coffee or espresso. I’ve been a coffee enthusiast for years, and felt that I could create a place where people would like to gather. Already we have a French club that meets here, and a comic book club. We have games, and a trivia night, and live music two nights a week and we’re getting a communal table. This is something that I felt North Buffalo needed. So when the yoga place moved out, I put my money where my mouth was. I have created a place that cares as much about the social experience as it does the coffee. And as far as the coffee goes, a lot of roasters will ply you with equipment to carry their brand. We have our own equipment and will be ordering different coffees from different roasters, in order to get all of the best choices.”
One of the other key philosophies that revolves around Daily Coffee is the social consciousness of the operation. Mike believes in recycling and sourcing locally. He’s big on fair trade coffee, planting trees, and anti-pollution measures. He’s also concerned about business handlings, and simply doing the right thing. When he first decided that he wanted to call the business Daily Planet Coffee Company, he conducted an online name search and discovered that there was a company by the same name in Massachusetts. “I knew that I could still call my business the same name since we were in different states,” he told me. “But all the same I found myself looking into the other company. Eventually I learned that they had actually closed 18 months earlier, but the info was not reflected on the website. Only then was I happy with my decision to call my business the same name.”
The name Daily Planet Coffee Company references Mike’s favorite superhero (in case you couldn’t guess). As a tribute to the Man of Steel, there are 25 discreet Superman “twists” within the coffee shop. “I challenge anyone to find them all,” Mike mentioned. “Our WiFi password is Kryptonite. Our double redeye is called The Speeding Bullet. Those are the only two that I will give out. You will have to find the rest on your own, at the one and only Daily Planet Coffee Company.”
Eventually Mike would like to roast his own coffee for a special blend. Right now he’s concentrating on making the best English muffin breakfast sandwiches around. For lunch he’s serving up panini sandwiches on Ciabatta bread. Soon he will have bagels made fresh right next door at Bagel Man. Then there’s the chili of the day, soups, scones, pastries, cakes and pies. There’s always a vegan and gluten free item available, for those looking.
From the look of it, North Buffalo has another well rounded café in its midst. Just the type of place to stretch out the legs and get comfortable, with WiFi as fast as a speeding bullet and coffee as strong as the Boy Wonder himself (if that’s what you choose to drink). There are some mild manner coffees too… for those who like their daily dose of caffeine a bit more relaxed. Whatever way you rock it, Daily Planet Coffee Company is worth an initial visit. From there you can decide whether it will become a part of your daily routine!