Author Archives: commonplace

Opening Pittsburgh Roastery with East End Brewing Co.

I cannot tell you how excited I am about tomorrow. I had trouble sleeping Friday night because I spoke with Phil and Bradly about their preparations for Monday – well, tonight I know that I will not sleep. In fact, I have to be up at 4 or so to get things together and then drive in. No worries – I downloaded the new Mumford & Sons album for the drive in. Continue reading

Coffee updates and such

There are a few people that I am really grateful for that have made the commonplace what it is today – those people know who they are. One of those people is Andre Chubb. We celebrate him this week as it is his birthday and call out the fact that we are all better people for knowing him. Andre, I value you and hope that you feel celebrated.

We felt really hopeful last week about getting in the new East End Brewing Space soon – but are not sure at this point. We have finished the barn wood facing of the bar and have a few more things to do but hopefully it wont be too much longer.

We have some of our coffee at Beehive Coffeehouse in the South Side. We are really excited about expanding our offerings there and continuing to work at such a cool icon of Pittsburgh coffee (they should be in yinztagram).

Buzz Coffee is opening in Freeport on Monday – we are excited about helping another client go from little information about coffee to full on business and they are really excited about serving everything fresh by the cup (they have no batch brewer). Please make a trip out to Freeport (right off 28) and check this place out.

Jamie is filling in for a lot of Al’s duties as she meets her daughter soon – so, any questions about indiana stuff should be sent to him for the time being. thanks Jamie for all you do!!

I had a great meeting with Andrew from Saxifrage School in Pittsburgh

  • we will be partnering with them in at least the Voluto space for them to hold some classes.

Thanks for all your support, we are really excited to bring you good coffee.


We are excited about a couple of new customers we will be working with starting this week. First, the artist hand gallery and coffee bar will be opening this week in Indiana, PA. Second the Gaslight café will begin using our coffee under their new ownership. The Gaslight café is located in Philipsburg, PA.

We are still anxiously waiting on roasting in Pittsburgh under our partnership with East End Brewing Company. We are getting closer but we are still waiting on a few things to be finished up before moving in.

We are excited to announce that we will be stocking Bonavita products in our stores. Besides great kettles they have a great line of brewers with great heating elements and awesome brew heads for making a great cup of coffee at home (in a traditionally styled brewer).

Phil has sourced a great Guatemalan that we will be addng to the list of available coffees soon – more details to come.

Thanks for all your support – we are excited to be able to continue to get better at what we do with coffee.


We have been trying to find places that are like minded with quality of food where we want our coffee served with integrity and responsibility a couple new ones you should visit:

-Root 174 1113 South Braddock Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15218 (412) 243-4348 -Bar Marco 2216 penn avenue / pittsburgh, pa 15222 / 412.471.1900 -Double Wide Grill 100 Adams Shoppes Route 228 Map.239f621 Mars, PA 16046 -Avenue B 5501 Centre Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15232 (412) 683-3663 -Solstice Restaurant 911 Green Street Greensburg, PA 15601 (724) 691-0006 -ZoZo 1517 Broad Street Greensburg, Pennsylvania 15601 -Knickerbocker 3957 6th Avenue Altoona, PA 16602 (814) 942-0770 -Altoona Hotel 3830 5th AVENUE ALTOONA, PA 16602, 814.944.5521

Coffee in Pittsburgh

The Commonplace is about to enter another major transition as we open our roastery in Pittsburgh. Our partnership with East End Brewing Company is nothing “new” but it has been a long time coming. We have had “issues” with our contractor who has ended up using every excuse as to why it has taken as long as it has. However, we are now almost to the point where our skill set can be appealed to so that we can finish up what is needed and move on. No need for regrets – but we have been at this project for about 8 months.

We are looking forward to more coffee connections through relationships made in the EEBC space. We will be joining EEBC for their growler hours. We will at least offer bags of coffee and coffee brewing machinery for people to see and play with. We want to use this space as an asset to the growing coffee scene in Pittsburgh. We recognize that we do not have all the answers but we are eager to help others in the endeavors for great coffee business in Pittsburgh, we are excited about the ever growing and evolving coffee science, and we are super excited about the new machinery that is out there and want people to make it accessible for people.


I have been asked several times by employees to restate the vision of the commonplace, a where are we going from here kind of question. So, below are my thoughts:

The Commonplace was originally started to provide a place (for community buildup) and to provide the best cup of coffee we were able to make.

Now The Commonplace has grown, not just because of good opportunities – but opportunities that have surrounded people – whether that has been cafe owners or employees. This growth has shown that our true hearts for coffee surrounds helping other people be successful in their coffee businesses. The retail cafes serve to supplement income for the employees of Commonplace and as “testing” grounds for machinery, business ideas, and coffee execution.

It is still about the Place in the sense that is about People as much as it is coffee but it is also about pulling off the best cup of coffee we are able to make.

To further those thoughts: I am constantly encouraged by the response coffee people have about us – “thanks for helping,” they say. The reason we started roasting coffee and working for other cafes is because there were no local roasters offering assistance beyond just their products. And still, as a couple of new roasters have joined in the region we are confronted with the same task – not just to offer roasted coffee, but to offer: advice about business, advice about better execution of the cup at the bar, better communication about coffee to their customers, advice about machinery and what best suits their needs, advice about things like proper brew techniques, and sometimes helping invest in their business by paying The Espresso Analyst to fix their machines so they can accomplish better coffee in their businesses. It is refreshing to go to sleep at night knowing that I am not just selling a product but I am partnering with cafe owners to help their businesses.

Commonplace Voluto

When Barb, Amelie and I first sat down to talk of the future of Voluto I was as shocked as some of you are today to hear that they were ready to be done with coffee business ownership. I wanted to hear what they had to say and see where they wanted to go. I couldn’t imagine being an active part of what they were doing. I wanted to, but just couldn’t think of how. Questions arose in my mind like, can The Commonplace really have more retail presence in Pittsburgh – that’s not what we have set out to do? Our Goal has been to help other reatilers. Can I even afford to offer them any amount of money that would offset the investment and hard work that Barb and Amelie have invested in Voluto Coffee?

I listened and tried to envision a way we could help. The biggest issue for me was that I couldn’t imagine Pittsburgh without Voluto Coffee. We literally sit with people every week to talk about coffee – whether helping someone envision better coffee in their store or with someone who wants to start up a shop – Voluto is always a part of that conversation. We have led countless people on coffee tours of Pittsburgh – Voluto has always been a part of those trips. Amelie and Barb have done such an incredible job – that can’t just dissapear. My first reaction was to offer a scenario where the commonplace could run Voluto for awhile and give Amelie and Barb a break. That didn’t seem to be the answer. So, after much consideration Julie and I have decided to take on the mantle of Amelie and Barb by becoming more a part of the Pittsburgh coffee scene.

At every step of growth for The Commonplace it has always centered around people. The growth has always been organic and natural; never premeditated and forced. And here too we noticed that there was an able person to run Voluto that has long been a part of The Commonplace, personally and businessly – Drew von Arx. Just as our original retail transition to Pittsburgh was about giving Dre, Phil and Brad the ability to showcase their skills, the acquisition of Voluto will be about showcasing Drew’s skills.

The Commonplace was hesitant about doing more retail because of the message that would send the coffee shops we work with. Our commitment is to see growth and quality enhancement in the coffee industry in Pittsburgh I believe that will be furthered with our participation with what Voluto has done. Commonplace Voluto will be more focused on Slow Bar manual brew methods, where Commonplace Squirrel Hill will continue its pursuit of espresso and alternative espresso (by featuring single origin espresso). We are again excited that we are not moving into a specific neighborhood with a coffee shop that is doing amazing coffee (ie we won’t be stepping on anyone’s toes). Additionally, we are excited to be around neat things going on in the neighborhood – Salt, Verde, and others.

We will continue to have some offerings of 49th Parallel and most of the same food and will try to uphold the same quality in executing delicious cups! We will make one change, sorry Barb and Amelie, we will add a batch brewer for those who are in a hurry or are limited on funds. The Commonplace has always been passionate about offering a lower cost, amazing coffee (ie the Buruni Kayanza A+ – a lower costing coffee that is very delicious), next to amazing coffees that are a bit spendy (such as the Colombian Cup of Excellence Mercedes).

In closing, we are hopeful to have a similar enough experience for Voluto’s inner circle of regulars and also expand to a few new things that the Commonplace has been doing for the life of our business. Thanks for being a part of this transition and for your support.

9 years and counting

Tomorrow marks a major milestone in my life. Not only is it our ninth anniversary as the commonplace, it is also officially the longest I have every lived anywhere in my life. Growing up, my dad thought it was appropriate, for whatever reason, to move (on average) every two years. Sometimes that just meant making a small move across town or across the city but also it meant that we moved to a different state sometimes. I have lived in Texas, Virginia, Rhode Island, back to Texas, Kansas then North Carolina. I have lived in Longview, Dallas, Norfolk, Scituate, Coventry, West Warwick, Meade, Rocky Mount, Raleigh, Buies Creek, Waxhaw, and Charlotte. Now, I am from Indiana, PA. I guess I have become a “townie.” I remember the day I found out about Indiana, PA – Ray Ciervo called when Julie and I were living in our ’74 VW Van – trying to figure out what to do with our lives. We had just finished grad school and decided the best way to “find ourselves” was to put everything that was valuable to us in a 10’x10’ storage room and drive our van until we found a suitable place to live. Ray called and said there was a college town (with no Starbucks – at the time) where a café had closed.

After some friends helped us out with some money and a little bit of a decision making we started to set up roots here. I remember the first day. March 11, 2003. What were we thinking? We sold $111.20 worth of coffee that day. Not only was I nervous we had made a bad decision – I was certain we couldn’t live off of this kind of daily sale. 3 weeks after we opened (without health insurance) we found out Soren was growing inside Julie. I remember breaking down when a husband and wife walked in (she was nine months pregnant and he was an insurance agent). Dave and Lisa Smith probably never knew how much they made us feel at home. I will be forever grateful for Ray making that call -for Bob Santos and Bernie Wilke not letting $111.20 be our daily sales. I think Bernie spoke to every student at IUP in 2003 about us. I appreciate the Fergusons, the Sherwoods, the Cavalancia’s, the Rogerson’s, the Mckelvy’s, and countless others that were early believers of the commonplace. I will be forever grateful for the Walker’s spending nice days off with us. I can’t thank the Meil’s enough for letting us live in their basement when a car hit our house. I can’t thank everyone enough that helped us on the day our roaster vent caught on fire and people pitched in to help us get ready for the next day’s sales. I am not sure a Commonplace would have ever made it without Mark Nicoll’s help with all the things he has done. I remember Gary Arblaster coming in with a suit on that day and removing his jacket and tie and rolling up his sleeve asking what he could do to help. I can’t thank Bob Hinrichson enough for making sure that noone would steal the couches or make the young ladies that worked in the mornings wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. Where would we be without the protection of officer Bob? Dave Fairman would always make sure the young ladies that closed the store at night felt safe and would check in with them as he closed the laundry mat. I am so grateful for Jeff and Linda Ference for countless meals of encouragement and times to just be our friends. I am sure that the commonplace wouldn’t still exist if it hadn’t been for the Sutfins – David’s constant business help and friendship has been so valuable and Kristen has been such a help and encouragement. I am very thankful for my mom helping us open – I am convinced those first days would have been impossible without her. I know there are so many that make up and have carved out what you now know of The Commonplace.

Today, we have 3 boys, a couple of stores, a warehouse and a second warehouse that is on the verge of being born. We have been through some really, really difficult times: Soren battled Kawasaki disease and almost lost, my father lost a difficult battle with cancer, a car (while being chased by State Troopers going 60+ mph through our cute little streets) lost control and slammed into our house . We have also had some really awesome times that have been highlighted by our relationships that have been forged in the commonplace – through it all we have been settling into a nice small town – my home.

Coffee 2012

Direct trade coffee

Last week we had a follow up meeting with another contact concerning a direct trade coffee. After the few farms that have worked successfully we are excited to be able to bring another direct trade coffee to our offering sheet. It is not official yet but it looks good for this coffee to be coming into our warehouse soon.

Other coffees for 2012

The Commonplace (and especially Phil) is close to having all of coffees set up for the year – we will have a follow up announcement after all the contracts are signed – but it is exciting to have a whole year of coffees set up that we can fine tune at the roaster level and at the counter level. One of the joys of being able to roast and retail is to be able fine tune coffees in both areas then be able to share that with our partners in the coffee shops.

East End Space

Progress is being made in the Commonplace Wholesale Pittsburgh Division. There have been a couple of hang ups but things are coming together nicely. It is really exciting to look forward to shared space with East End Brewery. Space in Pittsburgh. Scott and his team are awesome – I really can’t say enough great things about my future land-lord.

Party in Squirrel Hill

We will be hosting our first event in the new space on April 12 from 7-9. If you are a Coffee Professional in the Pittsburgh (or surrounding area – very loosely said) please contact us for more details. Grand Prize at the event is an iPad. Additionally we will be sharing some unique brew techniques and the savings we have had after switching to square as our credit card processor.

New question

question just came in: what should we take to our friends who have a chemex pot at home, papua new guniea? answer: chemex is for more nuanced coffees, png is more bodied – so, I would suggest a real fragile coffee like Ethiopian Harrar or Burundi Kayanza A+