No one seems more eager for development in Shaw than Michael Haft and Harrison Suarez, co-owners of Compass Coffee. "We’re tired of all these abandoned buildings on our block," says Haft. "Anytime someone comes in here and says hey, I’m thinking about opening up a restaurant I say, I know a spot for you!" With a stream of recent announcements about chefs opening outposts in Shaw, the neighborhood feels on the verge of a major change.
Haft and Suarez also announced plans for a new cafe not too far away, as well as a massive warehouse in Ivy City. Despite the empty buildings in the neighborhood, the pair of 28-year-olds already outgrew their current space on 7th Street. The former marines just recently opened the cafe in November 2014, but their own roasting machine supplying house blend to city restaurants and bakeries truly sets them apart from the competition.
What should area caffeine addicts expect of the new spaces? In late Fall 2015, Compass Coffee will open in The Shay building along with Chef Tim Ma’s first District venture, a "small local grocery store" and retail spaces. Warby Parker plans to open their third store right next door to Compass, with other fashion brands ready to move in. "Our neighbors will be insane," Haft says, "But it’s hard to top this space, with the roaster, cafe space and everything under one roof. The next location will be smaller, it has to be. It’s just a cafe but will have a familiar look and feel in terms of aesthetic."
Sustainable solutions are a lifestyle choice to them, explains Suarez, from utilizing materials like white oak and blackened steel to powering the roasting machine. But some things will have to change. Suarez, who describes the next space as "definitely cozy" continues, "We don’t want to give away all the surprises. But I think the one that we’re most excited about is the loft." An entire wall of glass along with high ceilings allows perched seating, providing a view to the street outside or the action at the bar below. Combined with fashion-forward neighbors, Haft admits, "Honestly, I think it’s going to kind of be a place where people go to be seen."
But their third location is rather removed from sight, at least for now. The Shaw location currently roasts several thousand pounds of coffee per week. "Look back there, we’re out of space," says Suarez. Sacks of beans stacked to the ceiling line the roaster’s room, clearly competing for parking space on their palettes before shipping out to fill the next day’s orders. "We work with chefs of different restaurants to pair our particular blends to their creations," or in the case of Bearnaise, how to make and serve French press elegantly at the table. An old tomato-canning factory in Ivy City will provide 5,000 square feet of necessary roasting space, along with a much larger warehouse area. "It’s our future home, we don’t need all that space right now. Ivy City will be so massive."
No matter how many cafe locations open, the focus must remain on the best possible product. From Marines to beans, as Haft puts it, "People are tired of the big chains, and look for something authentic, local, and different. That’s what we are trying to be."