BY KRISSI HUMBARD — Words that are sure to excite the people of Hyattsville: Vigilante is open again. The coffee shop that is so popular and loved by locals has reopened after some major renovations.
When you first walk in to the new space, you’ll notice a lot has changed. There is a big, new coffee bar (opposite where it used to be); new tables and chairs, including a gorgeous wood slab communal-style table; new layout; new seating areas; new equipment; new, expanded hours; new “Aloha” sign.
But there is also a lot that hasn’t changed: warm, inviting atmosphere; happy baristas eager to make sure you have a pleasant experience; coffee and tea that is prepared with patience and expertise; delicious baked goods; lots of familiar faces.
Partners Chris Vigilante, Austin Redington and Ashley Bodine have been planning the new space since last summer. What brought on the expansion?
“I think we just kind of listened to the community,” Vigilante said. He gave the example of adding Wi-fi when people asked for it, and expanding hours when folks began requesting it. “I think it’s just us consistently listening to our community and then understanding that this is their space.”
Bodine added, “It’s nice to be able to have a space for people to be able to come, to grab a drink or a coffee, a space for all times of the day.”
The shop will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., every day. “So now you can get fired up in the morning, and wind down in the evening,” Vigilante said. And this summer, make that wine down. The shop plans to start offering beer and wine in late May or June.
Vigilante said they plan to feature local beers, like Handsome Beer Company, but also feel the need to differentiate themselves from Franklin’s and offer more international brands, too. The wine program is still being worked out.
The changes don’t just apply to beverage offerings. The shop will now serve acai bowls daily, along with adding quiche and pies to the menu. And in the coming days, they will add ice cream from Trickling Springs Creamery. Down the line, they plan to make their own ice cream. Vigilante and Bodine say Redington makes some killer ice cream.
Vigilante says he was just looking for a place to roast and bag coffee when he opened the shop. He said he dreamed of having a roastery but “never imagined it would happen at the speed at which it did.” He says a lot of that was “right place, right time, and luck.” But he also credits the amazing community with the push to expand hours, grow the space and make it what it is today. Vigilante says the shop wouldn’t exist without the support from the Hyattsville community. He added that he is forever grateful to the community for “allowing us to develop this dream that we had” and continuing to support them.
“This,” added Bodine, “is definitely an added bonus.”
The original plan for the shop was “very much product driven, at first,” said Redington, “and now it’s more people driven.”
The focus remains on the coffee, though, since that is where it all started. They plan to expand their brew methods, trying different products and machines until they get it right. Redington has a “high-level of quality,” says Vigilante, whereas he himself is the experimenter. The team is playing around with having cold brew on draft with nitrogen, and even testing out things like a nitrogen latte. But it has to get Redington’s approval before making it to the menu.
The three partners pulled an all-nighter to get the shop ready to reopen Friday morning, along with Troy Hickman, who they call the “brains behind the design.” Hickman built the new coffee bar himself, with Vigilante and Redington pitching in, all while working at his own restaurant, Impala.
The positive experience Vigilante, Redington and Bodine talk about isn’t just for the customers. The three really thought about their employees when designing the new coffee bar. They drew from their many years working as baristas to fine-tune the new space to be a pleasant place to work, calling it a “space built by baristas for baristas.” They concentrated on making the use of space more efficient and incorporating ergonomic design, tweaking things with Hickman as they went through the building process.
“We took all those lessons (from putting in 10-15 coffee bars around DC), the flaws and mistakes and the best parts of it and made this,” Vigilante said.
The Vigilante team isn’t done, either. They plan to turn their office into an exposed coffee lab, where customers will be able to see them train their wholesalers. They also talked about adding more outdoor seating and putting another counter with more seating. But, “it will probably evolve, like everything else has,” Redington said.
The three all agreed that they won’t stop working to improve every aspect.
Bodine says one of the things that separates Vigilante from other shops is the customer experience. “It’s one of the biggest things that we focus on. Our staff is creating this really great experience for people to enjoy really great coffee.”
The shop at 4327 Gallatin Street is hosting a grand reopening party Saturday, Feb. 13, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. featuring live music throughout the day to celebrate the changes and kick off the new Vigilante experience.