If you haven’t been to Harrisburg in awhile, you may do a double take as you walk up historic North Street near the Capitol.
Where once there was a graffiti-pocked, tumbledown ruin, there is now a fully restored building and, inside, awaiting you, a delicious cup of coffee.
In October, Elementary Coffee Co. opened there, inside a light-filled, first-floor space with a full view of turning leaves glistening in the sparkling sunshine.
At the helm of Elementary’s operations is Andrea Grove, who founded the business out of a desire to showcase the best parts of the craft coffee movement.
“Craft coffee is beautiful and worthy of existing because it’s delicious, but also because it gives significant payment to the farmers, and it’s honest in all its spheres,” she said. “At least it should be, if you’re doing it correctly.”
She paused, thinking.
“There’s a way to do that but still make it accessible to everyone—to make it warm and welcoming.”
Grove has a certain kindness about her and an authenticity that is evident from the moment you meet her. These qualities carry throughout every aspect of Elementary’s operations—from a commitment to transparent business practices to fair wages for everyone, from the growers of the beans she roasts to her barista team.
Five years ago, Grove began selling coffee at her Broad Street Market stand, and, as she expanded, wanted to do it just as thoughtfully as she had navigating the company’s founding years.
This included her approach to choosing a shop location.
“I firmly believe that the right thing will come along if you’re willing to wait,” she explained.
There were several possibilities along the way, but, once the opportunity arose to locate on picturesque North Street, a stone’s throw from the state Capitol building, she knew she’d found the right spot.
The only hiccup? That right spot was a historic building in need of extensive restoration to make it habitable. Since its last occupant—a French restaurant called Coventry—closed its doors in 1990, the building slowly fell apart, complete with a generally moldering exterior, broken windows and a crumbling roof.
Last year, Harrisburg attorney Matthew Krupp and a business partner bought the property and mounted a basement-to-roof restoration, with apartments upstairs and, now, Elementary Coffee on the first floor.
To build out her space, Grove enlisted Chris Dawson Architects, which developed a custom design. Then, working alongside local carpentry expert Misha Kaschock, who served as project manager, Grove played the role of general contractor.
Priority lay in ensuring that the shop design effectively conveyed Elementary’s brand.
“Hence, all the windows so people can literally see in here,” Grove said. “Hopefully, there’s a transparency and honesty to what’s going on behind the glass.”
Grove and Kaschock worked closely throughout the project.
“When you get Misha, you also get someone who’s extremely dedicated to the product and becomes a friend,” she said.
Raw materials quickly became a focus.
“I do believe that, whether or not people know it, they can feel that a space is real,” Grove said.
The end result is a quietly beautiful testament to the company that Grove and her team have worked so hard to build.
The milky walls and rustic slate floor provide counterpoints to the softer details. Lustrous, hand-hewn, live-edged wood is prominent throughout the space. Bar seating against a wall of windows invites a wave from passersby and frames North Street for customers as they enjoy a drink. A large workspace of inky granite provides ample room for the Elementary team to craft beverages.
For Kaschock’s part, he worked to infuse the shop’s design with touches emblematic of Grove’s personality and the brand’s ethos.
“There’s kind of an elemental theatrically to the natural aspects of the space,” he said. “They’ll change with time and help make it something that can be lived in and broken-in over time.”
Ultimately, the full build-out took a little more than a year, which wasn’t what Grove expected.
“I was fully convinced that we’d announce the shop in January and be open by April,” she said, with a laugh.
She’s okay with having had to wait a bit.
“I think, nowadays, people expect a certain type of speed,” she said. “This has been a good lesson for us to slow down and remember that good things are worth waiting for.
In addition to the aesthetics, there are standout environmental components to the shop, such as composting and recycling containers for waste and a permeable surface out back to help prevent run-off during a hard rain. Less evident are the energy efficient hot water heater, coffee roaster and zoned HVAC.
And in an effort to cut down on single-use packaging, once on-site roasting is in full swing, customers will be able to bring in their own containers when purchasing beans.
As for bells and whistles, for now, Grove and her team are focused on establishing a day-to-day rhythm and setting up on-site roasting. Looking ahead, she reeled off a list of offerings she can envision at the space, ranging from live music to political rallies, skill shares, poetry writing and, of course, coffee cuppings.
“That’s one of the really cool things—the possibilities are endless here,” she said.
For the holidays, Elementary will offer a signature winter blend dubbed the “Abominable Snowman,” complete with a branded sticker by local artist and Elementary team member Ryan Spahr.
Be sure to stop in for a cup. After all, as Grove noted, “Conversations happen so easily over a beverage.”
Elementary Coffee Co. is located at 256 North St., and at the Broad Street Market, 1233 N. 3rd St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit www.elementarycoffee.co or the Facebook page.