BY ALLAN WALTERS — Waking up at noon and enjoying a cup of freshly roasted coffee will soon be as easy as walking out of the front door for many University of Maryland students.
Vigilante Coffee Co. plans to open their first store outside of Hyattsville this summer in the site formerly occupied by #1 Liquors on Route 1 — a location surrounded by student residence towers and a new development under construction that includes a 150-room Cambria Suites hotel, a CVS and a new 275-unit apartment building.
Austin Redington, one of three partners who own and operate Vigilante Coffee, said that the site in College Park was chosen after a lengthy search across the Washington, DC, area.
“We want to take the same approach in College Park as we did in Hyattsville: focus on serving great coffee,” said Redington.
In working to secure their new location, Vigilante Coffee worked with Ken Ulman, the chief strategy officer for economic development for the University of Maryland’s College Park Foundation. “Great college towns have great coffee shops,” Ulman told The Diamondback. “We’re really excited about bringing a great and local coffee shop to a location here in College Park.”
Hyattsville residents can also expect to see some changes in the flagship store off of Gallatin Street and, surprisingly, the coffee culture in Melbourne, Australia, is one reason why. On a recent scouting trip, Redington, who calls Melbourne the “world’s best coffee city,” noticed how engaged customers were there and how much they enjoyed and appreciated their coffee. His takeaway? “The coffee shops were the main reasons why.”
In an attempt to bring some of the coffee culture from “Down Under” back to Hyattsville, Vigilante will roll out some new products and services designed to “make it as easy as possible for customers to enjoy their experience,” Redington said.
Table service will be the most noticeable change. Orders will be taken at the table by servers using hand-held devices to get the orders back to the baristas and food prep stations as quickly as possible.
New menus items will also be available. Muesli has already made an appearance and a selection of toasts using bread from Hyattsville’s Lyon Bakery will be added soon.
A change that might leave some residents a tad disappointed: Plans to sell beer and wine have been nixed. Redington explained that “they wanted to completely focus on coffee and the coffee experience and ultimately felt selling alcohol would distract from that.”
Initial reaction by a few customers has been mixed. Some say they do not want Vigilante to change what they like about the cafe but are cautiously optimistic about what the changes may bring.
Hyattsville resident and daily customer, Dale Crowell, remarked, “As long as we can still walk in and grab a table, I am OK. It is kind of hard to picture how (table service) will look.”
Heather Morton of Hyattsville, who comes to Vigilante Coffee on most mornings, had similar thoughts regarding pending changes. “I love this place just the way it is, but I trust their instincts so any improvements will probably be fine,” she said. “I like to come here and write and I am concerned that the table service will increase pressure to turn over tables.”
Vigilante is also expanding their footprint in Hyattsville. They recently opened a new coffee lab and training center in the space formerly occupied by Green Owl Design. The new space will be used to both perfect coffee roasting recipes and to train commercial customers how to roast their coffee. Coffee classes will still be offered to the public.
And if all that wasn’t enough on their plate, a road trip is also in Vigilante’s future.
In April, Vigilante Coffee will compete in a national competition in Seattle, Washington, as one of 12 national finalists vying to be named the country’s best coffee roaster. Instead of flying out to Seattle, Chris Vigilante and team plan to drive a bus across country, stopping in cities and national parks along the way to practice coffee presentation in preparation for the competition.