Friday, June 28, 2013

Exclusive: La Colombe DC Owner Todd Carmichael "Wait till you see what we're building"

UPDATE 7/5/2013: Photographs (construction) see bottom of post

Today I had the opportunity to chat with Todd Carmichael, Co-Owner of La Colombe, and Greg Smith, who is the Manager of the new La Colombe Coffee Roasters location in DC. As previously reported, La Colombe plan to open in Shaw, Blagden Alley, adjacent to Rogue 24. Serious construction has been in progress for the past month, renovating and converting the building, which is one of the Blagden/Naylor Ct. Alley's famous stables.

La Colombe is located adjacent to Rogue 24 in Blagden Alley
Chef RJ Cooper of Rogue 24 and Todd Carmichael of La Colombe. New Neighbors
La Colombe has 6 locations across the US, NY, Chicago and Philly, as well as 3 in Seoul S.Korea, and everywhere they open they attract an almost cult level following of coffee aficionado's so its not surprising that Todd Carmichael is know as the "Godfather of the Artisanal Coffee Movement".
Greg Smith has been with La Colombe for almost 20 years, managed La Colombe's first Philly location, opened and managed the first Chicago location and has now relocated from Chicago to open and manage the DC location.
Greg Smith and family relocated (in Shaw) from Chicago to open and run La Colombe DC
Construction: The project to renovate and remodel a historic stable into a coffee lovers paradise is no easy task, with most of the governmental hurdles out of the way, construction continues and plans are reaching realization. Douglas Development, the property owners, have nearly completed there work, and are completing the hand over of the property to La Colombe. The floor 'slab' was removed this week, leveled and prepped in anticipation of a new floor. Some re-opening of bricked over doors and windows still remain. The 1st floor windows (2) and the old alley side door needs to be liberated of brick and concrete block. The alley door will get a 22 foot glass-paned garage-style door installed. The final plans show a light filled location that maintains the "feel" of the structures history.
With the renovation of the upper level, light has finally found its way inside, but when the lower windows & doors are opened up, the whole space will be filled with light
Greg tells me that "the planned opening is for late August, early September.
When I first spoke to Todd about DC here was his response "can't tell you how jacked we are to officially be in to DC!! Wait till you see what we're building!!"   Well its coming DC get ready.......

What to Expect: This is probably the most exciting piece from the interview. You've seen the pictures, and if you have checked out the building, you know that this is a deep, deep structure. How about a bar that extends for almost the complete depth of the building!!!. There will be two glass-paned garage-style doors (one fills the front facade which is currently the door, the other, which is 22 feet in width, on the alley side) both can be opened during suitable weather, allowing an outside/inside experience!! But wait there's more;
The Steampunk [Photo: Alpha Dominche]
I am quoting Eater Philly here; "The next big leap in brewing technology makes its worldwide debut at his (Todd Carmichael) La Colombe cafe at Dilworth Plaza." The Steampunk by Alpha Dominche. "There are five Steampunk machines in the U.S., and La Colombe owns all of them. Carmichael would not confirm this fact, but Eater is hearing that in addition to the one that's already in use at Dilworth Plaza, the other four are headed out to La Colombe cafes across the country, including Chicago and NYC. The Steampunk, the coffee maker from Alpha Dominche is able to recreate almost any brewing process that normally requires human interaction, like French press and pour-over techniques. The Steampunk can also simulate the laborious and challenging siphon brewing technique, which many of the coffee-obsessed believe is the best way to make a cup of Joe." I can confirm via Todd and Greg that DC will have its own Steampunk at La Colombe.
In addition Todd tells me there will be a customized cupping table, complete with hand cranked mechanism this will be part of a coffee lab for customers to investigate the art of coffee and coffee making.
If you want to get a taste of what's coming, Whole Foods on P Street NW carries La Colombe coffees as well as "Pure Black" cold-pressed coffee by the bottle. 
Pure Black is available at Whole Foods
Greg tells me that one day soon he hopes he will be able to offer "Pure Black" in a draft form, if he does it will be in DC first. 
Rum Distiller looks similar to this
More firsts; La Colombe is working on its coffee infused Rum. " We have been working on the recipe and experimenting with ways to incorporate our beans into the liquor. We have already tasted some delicious samples with the new distillery, and it will only get better. We can’t wait to share it with you." says Todd Carmichael. But that's in the future. 
Finally, Greg tells me that the La Colombe DC truck will make its appearance in DC very soon, in Greg's words "The coffee truck is a 1967 Citroen. It used to be an ambulance, now its retooled as a portable cafe, complete with brewer espresso machine sinks, the works...."  I believe the DC version of the truck will be blue...I'll keep an eye on that and let you know. Update: Its Blue!!
Red or Blue its a super-cool Citroen Truck
For now, and looking past the excitement, its important to know the La Colombe credo,
"In our cafes, first and foremost, the COFFEE and the CUSTOMER are the primary focus." Speaking with Todd and Greg today I have no doubts that this is something they believe and live by.

There's more to come about La Colombe, Todd and Greg - keep checking back 

Short Promo Video, shows multiple locations:


UPDATE 7/5/2013
Construction update; The 2 windows and the 22' wide door in the side (alley-side) have been cleared of old concrete block and brick, opened up, for the first time in decades. The amount of light inside the structure is amazing.
The support beams above the alley-side door have been removed/replaced to allow the garage style, glass door to be installed.
Support beams have been replaced and strengthened in preparation for the garage style glass door
Windows are now free of old concrete block & brick, filling the back of the structure with light
Repair of window brick surround of the windows continues, brick's will be pointed once window 'framing' is complete

Work continues, be sure to check back for updates, often

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