Shot in the Dark Roast

Al­most six years in, 1 Shot Cof­fee, a New York-style cafĂ©, has blos­somed with North­ern Liber­ties’ busi­ness dis­trict.

One Shot Cof­fee in North­ern Liber­ties, Fri­day Au­gust 5, 2011.

Her look — tat­toos, jean shorts and mes­sen­ger bag —says urb­an, hip­ster, cof­fee shop fre­quenter.

But her stress levels and newly sprouted, al­beit sporad­ic, gray hairs, (her words, not ours), say cof­fee shop own­er.

Melissa Bar­uno is only 33, but she’s already ce­men­ted her place in the Phil­adelphia busi­ness world.

Her check­book re­flects the dif­fi­cult cli­mate of urb­an en­tre­pren­eur­ship, yet her at­ti­tude and pos­it­ive out­look per­haps ex­plain her suc­cess.

Bar­uno owns 1 Shot Cof­fee, a small, New York-style caf&ea­cute; on tiny George Street in the ever-blos­som­ing North­ern Liber­ties.

The loc­a­tion, 217 W. George, has been the cof­fee shop’s home for less than a year. Pre­vi­ously 1 Shot op­er­ated out of a store­front in the Liber­ties Walk shop­ping plaza, the com­mer­cial strip that is cred­ited with help­ing to jump­start North­ern Liber­ties’ busi­ness dis­trict.

Bar­uno ori­gin­ally opened her busi­ness back in Decem­ber 2005, when the neigh­bor­hood was still in its gentri­fied in­fancy.

“It was un­der the radar for about two years,” Bar­uno said of the ori­gin­al loc­a­tion. “It was like a no-mans land.”

Bar­uno, who spoke with the Star Aug. 4 at her new loc­a­tion, said she had al­ways wanted to open her own busi­ness.

The Con­necti­c­ut nat­ive pre­vi­ously worked for her dad’s ac­count­ing firm, com­mut­ing to and from her then-home in Brook­lyn, New York.

But even­tu­ally she tired of the gig and wanted to try her hand at a new pro­fes­sion, and a new city. So she ven­tured down to Philly and quickly fell in love with her new home.

“It’s a nice melt­ing pot, it’s a nice blend of people,” she said of Phil­adelphia. “Very agree­able.”

With 1 Shot, she has been able to live her dream of be­ing a cof­fee shop own­er while at the same time rel­ish­ing the abil­ity to help oth­ers.

Each of her 17 em­ploy­ees re­ceive be­ne­fits in ad­di­tion to com­pens­a­tion, something Bar­uno said re­flects her de­sire to take care of those she de­pends on.

“Ob­vi­ously, you want to sur­vive and pay your bills,” she said, “[but] I want us to have a re­la­tion­ship.”

Be­cause she takes such good care of her em­ploy­ees, Bar­uno said she ex­per­i­ences very little turnover.

In ad­di­tion to her ded­ic­a­tion to her work­ers, she also takes pride in serving her cus­tom­ers only the best. This in­cludes the Stump­town Cof­fee brand as well as sweet treats from oth­er Philly busi­nesses. The lat­ter in­cludes cook­ies made by the famed 4th Street Bakery in South Philly.

1 Shot serves up a vari­ety of food and bever­ages, from cof­fee and tea to sand­wiches, yogurt and spe­cial­ties like ve­gan brownies and small cakes.

One thing Bar­uno is es­pe­cially proud of is the fact that hers is the only cof­fee shop in Phil­adelphia that has two floors, or, at least, she claims. (She ad­mit­ted the Star­bucks in South Philly might be split-level, but her busi­ness is still in a unique po­s­i­tion).

The new shop dif­fers from the old one in ways oth­er than the two-floor setup. It also has an en­tirely new d&ea­cute;cor, ac­cen­ted by things like book­shelves, ex­posed brick and duct­work, and a 1972 Honda mo­tor­cycle, (a non-work­ing one, that is), that sits in the middle of the up­stairs floor.

The cozy at­mo­sphere, which is a cross between a retro log cab­in and a European cafe, also con­tains old pho­tos and paint­ings, throw­back couches and seats as well as wood pan­el­ing on the walls that makes one feel they’re in the middle of a New Eng­land-based Steph­en King nov­el.

As for the nuts and bolts of open­ing her own shop, Bar­uno didn’t sug­ar­coat: it’s not the cheapest thing in the world to run a busi­ness in Phil­adelphia.

Be­fore open­ing, she had to shuck out $15,000 for a fire-sup­pres­sion sprink­ling sys­tem as well as an ad­di­tion­al $10,000 for out­door seat­ing. (The lat­ter wasn’t re­quired, but Bar­uno said she felt it would of­fer a nice touch for cus­tom­ers).

“Every minute is in­vaded in my head with this space,” Bar­uno said, re­fer­ring to the stresses that come with be­ing one’s own boss.

But the be­ne­fits tend to out­weigh the cons, she said.

“Is this your place?” one cus­tom­er asked Bar­uno as he walked through the up­stairs. “Very cool.”

Bar­uno was happy to re­ceive the com­pli­ment.

“This really is a labor of love on a daily basis,” she said. “I can’t ima­gine do­ing any­thing else.”

As for the costs, Bar­uno was able to save big by us­ing friend labor and bar­ter­ing with oth­ers. The lay­out was de­signed by friend Chris Shef­field, who Bar­uno called “No joke. He’s an amaz­ing de­sign­er.”

Shef­field also de­signed the nearby Ar­row Swim Club, she said.

And her friend Mike Baker built the two book­shelves that give the up­stairs floor a com­fy feel.

Bar­uno also had some sav­ings that trans­ferred over from the pri­or shop, money she was able to put in­to the new space.

For now, say­ing she’s pleased with the way things turned out is an un­der­state­ment.

“This is the shop on crack,” she said with a smile. “This is the dream shop.”

To learn more, vis­it www.1shot­cof­••

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