Veteran baristas to open coffee shop in Middlebury
MIDDLEBURY — If all goes as planned, Middlebury will have a new coffee shop come mid-April.
Royal Oak Coffee will be opening in the first floor of the house at 30 Seymour St., across from Trackside Depot. The business will operate out of the former location of Pauline’s Hair Fashions.
According to business owners Aless Delia-Lôbo and Matt Delia-Lôbo, the space will have a comfortable feel to it. Their extensive vinyl record collection will be the source of much of the music they play in the shop, along with specially curated mix-tapes by Matt.
Aless, 24, and Matt, 30, have partnered with Winooski’s Vivid Coffee Roasters, a company founded in 2015 that provides beans to Burlington favorites Onyx Tonics Specialty Coffee and Dedalus Market among other shops.
Aless and Matt have been working as baristas in New England for a long time. She earned a degree in oil painting from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., and he has worked as a barista for 11 years at fine coffee shops, always with the dream of opening his own space.
Both were born in Connecticut and relocated to Middlebury from Boston in February, after visiting Matt’s mom, who lives in Middlebury, on weekends for years.
“Middlebury was our escape, and we always wanted to be in Vermont,” says Aless.
Before deciding to open the shop, they set out to determine whether they had developed skills to launch their own business. To do this, they traveled Europe tasting coffee and swapping tricks and trade secrets with baristas in Italy, Stockholm and Berlin. “It was a great way to travel, touring these cities by café,” says Aless. “Being a barista is a craft, really, though it’s a low-paying job. It was confidence-inspiring to see that the skills we had gained over the years were consistent with what we saw from these experts in Europe.”
The new shop is still being renovated, but Matt says the goal is to take away the stigma of pretentiousness that sometimes exists around coffee culture. “Vermont has such an engrained coffee culture. What we love about Vivid, is that they can satisfy the person who wants a strong cup of coffee that they’re going to drink with cream, or provide something that may be a little different,” he says.
Matt and Aless are students of a global trend known as the Third Wave of Coffee. “There is this trend of treating coffee as a fruit and celebrating specific varietals from different regions of the world, like with wine,” says Matt, who plans to hold coffee tastings at the store.
“We want to provide a great product for people who are used to a dark roast, who are looking for good quality stuff that ticks those boxes in a cup of coffee, but also offer something a little bit exotic, fun and vivid with opportunities for tastings and we think both customers exist in Addison County,” says Aless.
The pair were inspired by the former Cursive Coffee shop, previously located on Main Street, which closed its doors in 2015. “Seeing the coffee they served made us think, maybe we could do this here,” said Matt. The difference? They plan to live in the community and create a different vibe in the shop.
“The last thing we want is for people to walk in and feel not welcome. Lots of shops in major cities come off that way, and that’s not our approach to coffee,” Aless says.
She said to expect a cozy sitting room with armchairs and floor lamps in one room and a bistro-style café in the other. “Think mid-century modern meets actual modern in your home, with matte black, copper, warm tones and an awesome espresso machine.”
Businesses like the Arcadian and Haymaker Buns as well as Stone Leaf Teahouse and Stonecutter Spirits drew them to Middlebury.
“Middlebury has a big commuting community and a college. And eventually, there will be rail access,” says Aless. “We are in a location that connects two business districts: Exchange Street and downtown, and I’m just hopeful that people will see what we’re doing and say, ‘Oh, OK, this is a place that can support this type of thing. Maybe I can open my boutique or record store or what have you in Middlebury.”
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