La Colombe coffee roasters come to Frankford Avenue

A picture of the plans for the facade of the new La Colombe location that will soon be built on Frankford Avenue in Fishtown.

The new flagship location of Philly’s very own La Colombe Torrefaction will soon bring a bakery, distillery and café to Fishtown’s Frankford Avenue, selling bread, cheese, and rum — as well as La Colombe’s signature coffee.

“This is a project we’ve been planning for 20 years,” said JP Iberti, cofounder of La Colombe, at a meeting of the Fishtown Neighbors Association’s Zoning Committee on Tuesday, Oct. 1. “This place just makes it all happen.”

Residents attended the meeting voted overwhelmingly in favor of the project, 82 in favor to 2 against. The local vote, from neighbors living within 500 feet of La Colombe’s future Fishtown location at 1335–37 Frankford Ave., was 42 in favor and 1 against. The site is currently a vacant former warehouse.

“I think it’s awesome. A rising tide lifts all boats,” said a barista at a nearby coffee shop, who asked not to be named because the barista does not represent the shop’s owners.

“I really admire what they do,” the barista added of La Colombe.

La Colombe’s history is a well-known Philadelphia success story. Founded in Philadelphia in 1994, La Colombe now has a café at Dilworth Plaza near City Hall and at Rittenhouse Square, as well as three locations in Manhattan, one in Chicago, and three in Seoul, South Korea.

Today, they roast their beans at a factory in Port Richmond. That factory will remain open when La Colombe moves, but their corporate offices will move from Port Richmond to the same building as the new café in Fishtown when they move to Frankford Avenue.

Iberti himself is a Fishtown resident, and told neighbors at the FNA meeting that many of his employees also live in Fishtown.

Iberti had to come before the FNA’s Zoning Committee to get approval for a variance for commercial uses in a property zoned industrial, as well as a liquor license.

But while La Colombe will have an on-site distillery, Iberti described it as only representing “the last step” in making La Colombe rum, which is poured through coffee to get its unique flavor. There will be no fermentation at the distillery on Frankford Avenue, he assured neighbors.

Rum won’t be served at La Colombe Fishtown, just sold in bottles. Current designs call for the distillery section of the location to be separated by a large window so customers can watch the distilling process while waiting for coffee or food.

Iberti also told Fishtown neighbors at the FNA meeting that no wholesale production will take place at the Frankford Avenue location. La Colombe supplies 1,200 restaurants and hotels across the country, according to Iberti, but wholesale pick-up and delivery will all continue to take place at the Port Richmond location.

Developer Roland Kassis, who owns the property and is developing La Colombe’s new location, said La Colombe would increase pedestrian foot-traffic on Frankford Avenue.

“We need some energy in the daytime,” Kassis said.

Preliminary designs for the new location of La Colombe include a double door entrance, a large front window, painted signage, and tall side doors that will be opened for outdoor seating on sunny days.

“We want to showcase the beautiful space, and show off FIshtown,” Kassis said.

La Colombe’s other co-founder, Todd Carmichael, is currently filming season two of his Travel Channel show, “Dangerous Grounds,” about his international journeys to procure coffee beans. Some merchandise associated with the show will be sold at the Fishtown location of La Colombe, Kassis and Iberti said.

One day after the FNA meeting, La Colombe went before the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and was approved for their variance and liquor license.

According to Kassis, La Colombe is hoping to open in Fishtown sometime in February. ••