When Meg Hagele opened High Point Cafe in July 2005, she brought her Seattle brand of coffee expertise to her home neighborhood of Mount Airy. Kitty-corner from Weavers Way seemed a slam dunk location for a great little coffee shop. She found out quickly how true the ‘little’ part was — something she’s finally starting to alleviate with a forthcoming wholesale operation a few blocks over and a new coffee shop that opened here in Brewerytown last week.
But High Point was not the first cafe Hagele opened. After working for years at the original location of Seattle’s Caffe Ladro — the popular roaster and coffeehouse now has fourteen across that city and its suburbs — she opened Cafe Besalu, a bakery and cafe in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. She came home to Philadelphia in 2005 and hit the ground running.
It became clear early on that High Point would need more than the cozy space they kept on Carpenter Lane, but they marched on, cranking out baked goods and fresh brew to a growing cast of regulars. “Oh we were busting at the seems,” she remembers with a laugh.
In October 2008, as the Phillies marched on themselves toward a World Series title, the doors to a second High Point Cafe opened in SEPTA’s historic Allen(s) Lane train station. “The Allens Lane space opened to relieve a little of that built up overflow,” Hagele says, pointing out that it’s within a mile of the original.
Of course a second location will build on that audience with one of its own when it’s serving the same cranberry orange scones and bleu cheese walnut biscuits, double lattes and shots-in-the-dark (a coffee with a shot of espresso) … oh, and those cr√™pes. Ham and cheddar and caramelized onions? “French toast” with eggs, cinnamon sugar, and bacon? Yeah. Now there were two crowded places.
So after several years of kicking tires, Hagele and her handpicked coffee roaster Stephane Rowley got the space they needed for real expansion, a former office building in Mount Airy where their wholesale baking and coffee roasting needs will serve not just their own two locations, but other cafes including some who’ve already lined up. Not long after this, a vacancy opened the former Mugshots Coffeehouse on Girard Avenue in Brewerytown.
“Our expansion plan did not include a third location,” Hagele says. “But I saw a photo of the space with the arched ceiling and thought, ‘I’ll come down for a visit, you know, as a courtesy’.” The former Leins building wooed her and she was sold.
“The vibrancy of Girard Avenue as a commercial corridor is really important,” she observes, recognizing it as the backbone of a community oriented neighborhood. “That’s what High Point is.”
More over, she recognized Brewerytown’s proximity to Center City as a major asset for her growing business. “Potential clients have always looked at us in Mount Airy as being out in the sticks, so it’s important to us to have a place in a more urban setting.”
And they’ve already got that showcase humming. Last Sunday, High Point opened at 2831 W. Girard Ave., initiating a set of new regulars — and even some old ones. “In coming down here during the buildout (her brother doubles as her contractor), I saw Max [from Brewerytown Beats] and Dan [from Icy Signs] and thought, hey, these guys are already my regulars from Mount Airy!” Seeing the familiar faces, she wasn’t sure if all of Mount Airy was coming to Brewerytown with her.
Considering Mount Airy’s known as a beautiful part of town with lots of small businesses, bringing a little bit of that beauty to Brewerytown’s not a bad thing. And the growing neighborhood around the new High Point Cafe is happy to help continue growing her business.