La Colombe coffee roasters come to Frankford Avenue

Phil­adelphia's own La Colombe is plan­ning to open a flag­ship cafe on Frank­ford Av­en­ue, and has re­ceived zon­ing ap­prov­al as well as sup­port from neigh­bors.

A pic­ture of the plans for the facade of the new La Colombe loc­a­tion that will soon be built on Frank­ford Av­en­ue in Fishtown.

The new flag­ship loc­a­tion of Philly’s very own La Colombe Tor­re­fac­tion will soon bring a bakery, dis­til­lery and caf&ea­cute; to Fishtown’s Frank­ford Av­en­ue, selling bread, cheese, and rum – as well as La Colombe’s sig­na­ture cof­fee.

“This is a pro­ject we’ve been plan­ning for 20 years,” said JP Iberti, cofounder of La Colombe, at a meet­ing of the Fishtown Neigh­bors As­so­ci­ation’s Zon­ing Com­mit­tee on Tues­day, Oct. 1. “This place just makes it all hap­pen.”

Res­id­ents at­ten­ded the meet­ing voted over­whelm­ingly in fa­vor of the pro­ject, 82 in fa­vor to 2 against. The loc­al vote, from neigh­bors liv­ing with­in 500 feet of La Colombe’s fu­ture Fishtown loc­a­tion at 1335-37 Frank­ford Ave., was 42 in fa­vor and 1 against. The site is cur­rently a va­cant former ware­house.

“I think it’s awe­some. A rising tide lifts all boats,” said a barista at a nearby cof­fee shop, who asked not to be named be­cause the barista does not rep­res­ent the shop’s own­ers. 

“I really ad­mire what they do,” the barista ad­ded of La Colombe.

La Colombe’s his­tory is a well-known Phil­adelphia suc­cess story. Foun­ded in Phil­adelphia in 1994, La Colombe now has a caf&ea­cute; at Dilworth Plaza near City Hall and at Ritten­house Square, as well as three loc­a­tions in Man­hat­tan, one in Chica­go, and three in Seoul, South Korea.

Today, they roast their beans at a fact­ory in Port Rich­mond. That fact­ory will re­main open when La Colombe moves, but their cor­por­ate of­fices will move from Port Rich­mond to the same build­ing as the new caf&ea­cute; in Fishtown when they move to Frank­ford Av­en­ue. 

Iberti him­self is a Fishtown res­id­ent, and told neigh­bors at the FNA meet­ing that many of his em­ploy­ees also live in Fishtown. 

Iberti had to come be­fore the FNA’s Zon­ing Com­mit­tee to get ap­prov­al for a vari­ance for com­mer­cial uses in a prop­erty zoned in­dus­tri­al, as well as a li­quor li­cense.

But while La Colombe will have an on-site dis­til­lery, Iberti de­scribed it as only rep­res­ent­ing “the last step” in mak­ing La Colombe rum, which is poured through cof­fee to get its unique fla­vor. There will be no fer­ment­a­tion at the dis­til­lery on Frank­ford Av­en­ue, he as­sured neigh­bors.

Rum won’t be served at La Colombe Fishtown, just sold in bottles. Cur­rent designs call for the dis­til­lery sec­tion of the loc­a­tion to be sep­ar­ated by a large win­dow so cus­tom­ers can watch the dis­tilling pro­cess while wait­ing for cof­fee or food.

Iberti also told Fishtown neigh­bors at the FNA meet­ing that no whole­sale pro­duc­tion will take place at the Frank­ford Av­en­ue loc­a­tion. La Colombe sup­plies 1,200 res­taur­ants and ho­tels across the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to Iberti, but whole­sale pick-up and de­liv­ery will all con­tin­ue to take place at the Port Rich­mond loc­a­tion.

De­veloper Ro­land Kassis, who owns the prop­erty and is de­vel­op­ing La Colombe’s new loc­a­tion, said La Colombe would in­crease ped­es­tri­an foot-traffic on Frank­ford Av­en­ue.

“We need some en­ergy in the day­time,” Kassis said.

Pre­lim­in­ary designs for the new loc­a­tion of La Colombe in­clude a double door en­trance, a large front win­dow, painted sig­nage, and tall side doors that will be opened for out­door seat­ing on sunny days.

“We want to show­case the beau­ti­ful space, and show off FIshtown,” Kassis said.

La Colombe’s oth­er co-founder, Todd Car­mi­chael, is cur­rently film­ing sea­son two of his Travel Chan­nel show, “Dan­ger­ous Grounds,” about his in­ter­na­tion­al jour­neys to pro­cure cof­fee beans. Some mer­chand­ise as­so­ci­ated with the show will be sold at the Fishtown loc­a­tion of La Colombe, Kassis and Iberti said.

One day after the FNA meet­ing, La Colombe went be­fore the city’s Zon­ing Board of Ad­just­ment and was ap­proved for their vari­ance and li­quor li­cense. 

Ac­cord­ing to Kassis, La Colombe is hop­ing to open in Fishtown some­time in Feb­ru­ary. ••

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