A Kendall Square coffee shop that suffered damage in a fire and flood about a year ago is finally on the brink of reopening after a full-blown overhaul of the shop interior and the menu. Beantowne Coffee House is set to reopen shortly at 1 Kendall Sq., possibly by the end of this week. Everything at the store is brand new — including fixtures, furnitures, and signage — with the exception of a solitary pipe that is the legacy of the previous place.
Owner Ed Goyette first opened Beantowne in 1993, driven by the desire to serve good coffee. He did exactly that until about a year ago when a fire ripped through the ventilation system in Beantowne’s building. The coffee shop, along with several other businesses, suffered smoke and water damage and was forced to close and rebuild.
Faced with extensive damage and an unpredictable timeline for repairs, Goyette relied heavily on his chef, Sara MacLean, and the store’s manager, Chelsea Adams, who was officially hired the day before the fire. Her first day was spent not doing paperwork but taking inventory of what was damaged or lost.
"I was supposed to actually come in and take over — just walk in, take over the staff, take over the cafe. He hired me, and at 1 a.m. that night, I got an email from him that was like, 'We still have your job, but it's a little different now,'" Adams said.
"I hired her Saturday, and then Sunday night, 10 o'clock, I get the call that the whole place is gone," Goyette said. "And my first thought...well, my second thought is, 'Oh my god, I have this wonderful new person. What do I do?'"
His first thought, actually, was "Okay, I guess I’m building a new store," and as he drove from his home in New Hampshire to the coffee house in Cambridge, Goyette said he began running through a checklist of changes he wanted to make to the store.
After assessing the situation and drawing up plans for the redesign, the team worked through Goyette’s checklist, pulling the store together piece by piece as MacLean worked to develop an updated food menu. The team’s forward-thinking mentality got them through nearly a year’s worth of renovations and upgrades that were, in some cases, largely out of their control, but with hefty doses of positivity, the end is now in sight.
"I've learned so much about opening a cafe," Adams said.
"Everything you see here was the result of us three," Goyette added.
That includes the special lighting fixtures that hang over the cafe’s seating: Goyette designed and installed an array of dangling coffee cups and lights. It also includes the dedication to making great coffee accessible to everyone, a goal that starts with the coffee house's beans and ends with a $20,000 espresso machine.
"When it comes to the products, you just make a decision to do it right," Goyette said.
The coffee shop sources its beans from Flight Coffee Company, based out of Bedford, NH, not too far from Beantowne's second location in Hampstead, and the shop's employees have been trained on how the optimal cup of coffee should be brewed. Beantowne plans to display staff tasting notes for the coffees as well, to make the beverages even more approachable.
"A big focus of ours is to [give] people information, but in a fun, immediately accessible way," Goyette said. This will be the main task for the coffee shop moving forward, now that construction is complete.
"It's been quite a journey, as they say," Goyette said. "I wish I didn't go through it. All of us, we've lost a lot of sleep. It's been the most difficult thing I've done professionally, ever." But, he added, it will likely be one of the most rewarding.
Additionally, amid the challenges of working to renovate and reopen Beantowne, Goyette added another task to his plate: A third Beantowne is on the way, this time in Boston proper. The shop will occupy a space at 99 Kneeland St. in Chinatown at the One Greenway development, and it could open sometime this fall.
Meanwhile, in Kendall, Beantowne’s neighbor Flat Top Johnny’s was the first to reopen in April, and The Blue Room and Belly Wine Bar are still out of commission but making progress.
Update 8/11, 8:30 a.m.: Beantowne Coffee House officially reopened today at 7:30 a.m.