MOTT HAVEN — A new coffee shop in the South Bronx is set to have its grand opening on April 2, when it will serve free coffee to any customers who stop by.
Filtered Coffee will set up shop at East 134th Street and Third Avenue and be co-owned by Karen Paul and Aaron Baird, who also have multiple coffee shops in Manhattan.
"When we saw this space, we were just kind of inspired by it," Paul said of their new location in Mott Haven. "We thought it had a lot of potential. It’s very different than our other shops."
The duo's coffee shops in Manhattan are very long, narrow spaces, and they hope to take advantage of the wider space at their building in The Bronx by having a more ambitious food menu.
In addition to coffee and tea, Filtered Coffee also plans to serve standard cafe fare like pastries, yogurt and bagels, and will eventually roll out a lunch menu with sandwiches.
The new shop is receiving support from developer Keith Rubenstein, whose company Somerset Partners joined with The Chetrit Group to purchase two sites near the cafe for $58 million, where they plan to build a residential and retail complex.
Filtered Coffee's April 2 grand opening should include free coffee, a table for people to decorate mugs, a photographer and live music, although they are still trying to find a musician.
"We want to open the doors and invite the neighborhood to come check us out, enjoy some coffee in the space and have some fun," Paul said.
Filtered Coffee will be the latest in a series of new cafes that have recently opened up in the South Bronx.
"People always want to drink coffee," said Baird.
Filtered Coffee intends to hire a total of about five people to start off and would love to have them come from the neighborhood, according to Paul.
"Our goal is to hire local just because it makes sense from so many different points of view," she said. "Bringing jobs to the community, being more plugged into the community, just having people close by just makes logistical sense."
The duo plans on using their space to host events like open mic nights but will ultimately let the identity of the shop be defined by the community.
"I have other ideas of what I would like to do here, but I think what we’re going to do is see what people want and base our programs around that demand," she said, "because I think that coffee shops should be defined by the people who use them."
Although coffee shops have traditionally been seen as a possible sign of gentrification—a particularly sensitive topic in the South Bronx—Paul stressed that they were a small business and hoped Filtered Coffee could serve as a place for people to have discussions about such issues.
"It’s a place where people can actually come together and have meaningful connections and conversations about important topics like gentrification," she said. "We’re sensitive to that word, but I hope that we can, like I said, be more of an antidote."