A 'brew-tiful' new coffee shop to open in Mt. Airy

by Len Lear
Posted 2/15/24

Coffee may perk you up and help you deal with the daily grind, but if you’re anything like Christopher Petersen, you absolutely must have a cup of coffee in the morning.

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A 'brew-tiful' new coffee shop to open in Mt. Airy


Coffee may perk you up and help you deal with the daily grind, but if you’re anything like Christopher Petersen, you absolutely must have a cup of coffee in the morning.

“I just love coffee,” insists Petersen, who is in the final stages of creating the Mt. Airy Coffee Company, slated to open Feb. 18 in the space formerly occupied by Buddha Babe, a boutique for homemade baby products, and a yoga studio before that. “I like everything about coffee and drinking it. It brings people together and it enlivens your mind.”

Petersen has been renovating the space, located on the corner of Emlen Street and Mt. Pleasant Avenue, which boasts oak floors and an original tin ceiling, since June of last year. His vision? A neighborhood gathering place where people can socialize or have business meetings.

“There are other coffee shops in Mt. Airy, of course, but not in this little corner of the neighborhood,” he said. “In this small pocket, there is no place to hang out.”

For now, broadsheet newspaper pages cover all of the windows. Those sheets will come down in a big reveal on opening day to expose a charming room with all-new appointments, including tables, chairs, and a bar made by carpenter Jay Cox of Esote Woodworking. The design by Emily Crane of French and Crane Architects includes bar-height singles, two-seater tables, and family-style benches. You might say that Cox and Crane are the perfect blend.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, coffee drinking originated in Yemen in the 15th century. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates that the average American coffee drinker consumes about three cups of coffee per day. The FDA also estimates that about 85 percent of adult Americans consume at least one caffeinated beverage each day.

Interestingly, the U.S. is only the 25th top coffee-consuming country in the world, according to worldatlas.com, with the average adult American drinking 9.26 pounds per capita per year. The number one country is Finland, with the average Finnish adult consuming 26.45 pounds per capita per year. And decaf coffee is almost nonexistent in Finland.

Petersen tested Mt. Airy's demand by running pop-up shops in 2021 and 2022, selling coffee and pastries to see if there was enough interest.

“I worked in nonprofits for so long, 36 years, so I had to find out if running a business was for me,” he said. “I found out from the pop-up shops that it was. I loved serving coffee to people. So I began looking for a location, and when this Emlen Street place became available, I knew it was time to make the move.”

Petersen, who is now 58 years old, was born in Louisiana but grew up in the Chicago area. After high school, he moved to South Bend, Indiana, and went to Indiana University.

After college, he worked in community organizing in St. Louis for five years and then in Philadelphia for 31 years. He moved to the Philadelphia area to attend Eastern University in Radnor. What he had read about the school appealed to him.

He earned a BA from Eastern in sociology and then a master's degree in community development and economics. Then he worked for nonprofits. He and his wife, Tracey Hartmann, an educational researcher with a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, moved to West Mt. Airy from West Philadelphia five and a half years ago.

“We wanted to be close to the woods and had some friends here,” said Petersen. “We used to come up here to hike and bike and run, so we thought it would be even better to live here permanently. We love the neighborhood and the neighbors. I used to bike to work, and now I walk to work. We love the trees, especially the Norway spruce trees.”

The new store's coffees will be from Ultimo Coffee Roasters, a local coffee provider, paired with pastries, bagels, and sandwiches. A full menu of coffee beverages will be offered from hot and iced drip coffee to espresso-based drinks, hot and iced tea, and seasonal specials for dining in or take-away.

Petersen and Hartmann have two children: Sadie, 27, of West Philadelphia, and Ella, 25, of South Philadelphia. Both work in the food service industry and are helping out in the new coffee shop behind the scenes, as is Hartmann.

For more information, visit mtairycoffeeco.com. Len Lear can be reached at lenlear@chestnuthilllocal.com