Two years ago today, Brookline Boulevard got a little more … caffeinated.
Cannon Coffee, which is quickly becoming the community hub for arts, entertainment and local meetings—as well as coffee—opened its doors in the middle of a snowstorm on Feb. 3, 2010.
The vision owner Nathan Mallory had for the coffeehouse is becoming reality, but he said there’s a lot more to be done, and not just in Brookline.
“You kind of reflect on events like open mic night that have been solid and steady since we opened,” Mallory said. “To keep the momentum that we have, and the camaraderie and the intimacy, is really something that we had no idea if it was going to work.”
The challenge is to keep it going, especially through next year when the will begin.
Building the momentum to steer a small business through a reconstruction project is a bit intimidating, Mallory said. But Cannon has spent the past two years building a strong foundation.
The coffeehouse holds every Wednesday, Magic tournaments as needed, and plays host to meetings of community organizations. The walls are a space for local artists to display their work, and Cannon is the now the home base for performances of youth poetry group .
“Ideally, we’ll be spending the next year advocating for our business district,” Mallory said. “For us, it’s to continue the momentum of being involved. Always having something to talk about has been the process for success so far. We want to always having something that keeps us still growing. The third year will be just as successful as the first two.”
That hope extends to Cannon’s nonprofit sister coffeehouse, Brew on Broadway, in Beechview.
Brew opened about eight months ago, and is operated by , a nonprofit organization that gives back by operating coffeehouses and investing the shops' proceeds into the communities where they are located. Mallory is an operations manager with Project Coffeehouse.
Brew, like Cannon, is a coffee shop with a cause, but it faces a different set of challenges than its counterpart.
“It’s a very unique coffee shop in Pittsburgh. It’s coffee with an attempt to make a difference,” Mallory said. “I don’t want it to become like a spaghetti dinner, where you know exactly what to expect and what to do every time.”
Brew manager Andre Costello said although the T runs through Beechview, there’s not as much foot traffic on Broadway Avenue as there is on Brookline Boulevard.
“The T is how we’ve discussed utilizing this location to it’s best,” Costello said. “We’re all well aware of the trolley being here, us as well as the other business owners here. We want to find a way to get people off of it.”
One way to do that, he said, is for Brew to keep working on its unique mission to improve the look and feel of the community—starting with the “Welcome to Beechview” sign on the building across the street.
Costello said profits from Brew likely will go into refurbishing the sign first, and then the focus will shift to other beautification projects and ideas to bring more businesses to the area. Discussion has just started, but is constant, he said.
Brew already is hosting some community events. Trivia night is once a month—the next is Feb. 9—and the crew hopes to eventually host open mic nights and poetry readings, or similar events.
“We’ve got a lot of ideas, and us being so young and the future being so big, we could do anything,” Costello said. “It’ll be something interesting, no matter what it is.”
Mallory said he thinks the future for both coffeehouses is bright, although there are challenges to both. Fortunately, each shop has had little turnover in staff members—most of whom have been with the organizations since they opened, or shortly after.
A third Project Coffeehouse shop in the Hill District is in the works and that shop, like the others, will have its own challenges and its own personality. Mallory and his staff are looking forward to it.
“We all understand that the cash register is what keeps us going, but we all want to build the connections,” Mallory said. “All of these people understand that it’s really about the social side of coffeehouses. When you do this everyday, you really feel like you’re actually participating, for real, in something.”