Serendipity is a word that bounces around a lot when the owners of downtown Asheville’s new Trade and Lore Coffee talk about their business.
“It all has felt very serendipitous. It feels like the three of us, the way we fit together, is very puzzlelike. We all complement each other,” says co-owner Lindsey Pitman of her two friends and business partners, Brock Kehoe and Sarah Winkler.
The trio are launching Trade and Lore next week on Wall Street with the goal of creating a community hub that supports local nonprofit agencies and focuses as much on social justice as it does on excellent coffee.
Trade and Lore emerged as a positive byproduct of last fall’s nationally reported misogyny scandal at Waking Life Espresso. Winkler had been a barista at Waking Life for more than two years and quit when the news broke. In need of income, she accepted an offer from Pitman to work some guest shifts at Pitman’s Charlotte coffee shop, the Daily Press CLT.
Pitman says she had previously bought an LLC for the name Trade and Lore (referring to the craftsmanship, science and history of coffee) in Charlotte, but had no idea yet of what she was going to do with it. When Winkler mentioned a desire to open a coffee shop dedicated to building community and supporting social justice causes, a partnership was born.
“It was such a serendipitous thing that I already had this name and this LLC,” says Pitman. “And now, just seeing the logo and name on the window out there, I know it was in hibernation just for this.”
Winkler had been considering buying a van and traveling the U.S. doing coffee pop-up events, but, she says, “I knew that day that I wasn’t leaving Asheville.”
After a successful crowdfunding campaign that was featured in national publications including Cosmopolitan and Jezebel, they hoped to set up shop in the storefront at 89 Patton Ave., where a Waking Life expansion had been planned before the business folded. When that arrangement fell through, they eventually landing in the former tattoo shop at 37 Wall St.
Winkler thought it was perfect. “The space felt right. It’s beautiful,” she says of the historic location with its uncovered brick walls and disheveled charm.
It has a rich background, too, Kehoe points out. Built in 1924, it served a stint as a dance studio, and much of the choreography for the movie The Last of the Mohicans was done within its walls.
Kehoe, who has years of experience opening restaurants, including West Asheville’s Buffalo Nickel, joined the project after seeing the crowdfunding campaign. His business experience and practical nature melded well with Winkler’s and Pitman’s creativity and coffee savvy.
“When we met, I think it was only after about 10 minutes that were were like, ‘Yep, this is going to work. Let’s do it.’” says Kehoe. “We were obviously on the same page about things.
Trade and Lore will feature two espresso machines and two point-of-sale stations to create a bar flow that encourages direct connection between baristas and customers. “You’ll place your order just like if you walk into a bar, and you’ll talk to the person who makes your drink,” explains Pitman. “We want to create that interaction and make sure that we’re totally focused on each customer.”
Winkler says the coffee menu will be unconventional, eliminating the confusing drink names that often conflict from shop to shop. “We want a menu that emphasizes accessibility and inclusivity,” she says. There will be a small menu for people who just want something easy and quick, “but if you want to dive deeper,” she adds, “we’ll have a specialty menu of crafted drinks, like in a craft cocktail bar but made with coffee.”
They plan to feature multiple roasters on a rotating basis, but Asheville’s Mountain Air Roasting will be a constant. Pitman and Winkler will make all flavored syrups in-house, sourcing herbs and fruit from local tailgate markets and a planned garden at Kehoe’s Leicester home.
A selection of looseleaf, fair trade teas from Dobra Tea, Rishi and Divinitea will be offered, plus, eventually, house-blended herbal teas sourced from the garden. All scraps and coffee grounds will be composted on a 1/4-acre plot on Kehoe’s property for use in fertilizing the garden.
A commercial kitchen is in the works in a downstairs space, where Pitman intends to do baking and cooking for the shop. In the meantime, the food menu will feature locally made Home Free bagels with cream cheese spreads, locally made jams and house-prepared toppings — think fig, ricotta and sesame seeds; plum, nut butter and flax seeds or classic smoked salmon with capers — that will be served open-faced on the bagels with fresh garnishes. Items on the food menu will be listed with suggested coffee pairings.
Samantha Stumpf, the pastry chef from Wall Street neighbor Cucina 24, will prepare many of the baked goods along with Black Mountain gluten-free bakery Dolci di Maria. A grab-and-go cooler will be stocked with fresh, locally made sandwiches, fruit and other on-the-go meal and snack items, including plenty of vegan and grain-free choices. Coffee prices will start at $2.50 for an Americana or espresso, bagels will start at $3, all including tax.
There will be indoor seating for 49 at tables the owners repurposed from old doors found in the building’s basement. Outdoors, 30 more seats will wrap around the corner of the building in a previously unused area that was rezoned by the city for that purpose.
In keeping with Trade and Lore’s mission to act as a community hub and support local nonprofits, a signature coffee will be featured each month with proceeds benefitting a selected Asheville-area charity. Customers who buy the coffee will receive a flier with information about the organization and its mission. The inaugural nonprofit partner is local domestic violence agency Helpmate, which will have a turmeric ginger latte as its featured drink.
After closing in the evenings, the space will be dedicated to community organizing efforts and workshops on everything from the coffee industry to environmental issues. The owners are applying for Living Wage certification, and they all agree that a top priority is to create jobs where employees are compensated fairly and have their passions and skills valued.
Which leads to another perk of this coffee business. Following up on an idea Winkler had while working at Waking Life, the owners are negotiating trades with local businesses to provide amenities to employees, including regular massages for staff.
“That’s something I’m really passionate about, taking care of the people who work here,” says Winkler. “I’ve always had ideas like this at places I’ve worked, but I’ve never been able to make them happen because it wasn’t my space.”
It seems, says Winkler, that with the spring weather, some wonderful things are sprouting up in the Asheville coffee community from the ruins of Waking Life. In addition to Trade and Lore, she mentions her roommate, former Waking Life barista John Linch, who will be running the coffee program at the soon-to-open OWL Bakery in West Asheville.
“Only in Asheville,” she says. “Truly, only in Asheville, could … a business go down in a week, and [the community] supports everyone who works there to help them see where they need to be.
“It’s what created all this,” she adds. “Yes, there’s coffee here, but community is what started it all; it’s what got us to this point.”