Every coffee shop is different, and no one knows that better than you—the coffee shop owners who build a unique story and brand with every cup. Welcome to our fourth edition of Breaking New Grounds.
Located in the heart of Harlem, ACP Coffee gets its name from the boulevard on which it’s located—in turn named after civil rights icon Adam Clayton Powell. (Powell was the first African-American member of Congress and represented Harlem, New York in the House of Representatives.) Similarly, ACP Coffee supports and represents the community’s local history and culture—whether it’s the art adorning the walls or the art foaming atop the lattes. (ACP displays work by local artists, often drawing inspiration from the Harlem Renaissance and the culture of New York City.) The customers themselves are locals as well. With several schools in the proximity, teachers usually stop by ACP for their pre-work caffeine fix. “Teachers were thrilled that we opened,” says Selina. “The area was previously a coffee desert.” In the 1.5 years since Selina opened shop, ACP Coffee has only become more and more popular.
“We’re trying to run the shop with a heart,” says Selina. “I enjoy talking to customers. They become my friends.” As ACP has grown more extensive and refined, it seems that its customers and the surrounding community have grown with it. Selina strives to include a variety of roasters. She currently partners with Counter Culture and Coava from Portland, but is interested in rotating artisanal and small-batch roasters for her customers to try a variety. She’s noticed her customers becoming more engaged in the specialty coffee world too. “They start asking about tasting notes, specialties and recommendations—instead of just ordering a cup of joe.” Selina is interested in branching out beyond the coffee itself to explore its origins. In the future, Selina would consider roasting in-store as well as visiting farms in-person to ensure quality sourcing. However, she’d like to continue developing her palette and coffee knowledge first before tackling roasting and sourcing. “Ethiopia, that’s my dream—but not yet.”
There’s no doubt that if anyone has the drive to research coffee in Ethiopia and head her own vertically integrated supply chain, it would be Selina. “I’m a coffee connoisseur. I love coffee and traveling to see what other coffee shops are doing,” Selina says. “I’m more proactive, constantly seeking out ways to improve.” She has no prior coffee experience other than her previous position as the owner of Nolita Mart and Espresso Bar, where she first came to love coffee. It’s incredible just how far she has come—from training herself alongside her own baristas to completely transforming the space (formerly a dimly lit lawyer’s office) to a clean, contemporary coffee shop.
Selina wants to help her staff accomplish the same growth. She’s currently training an in-house assistant with equal motivation and passion for coffee, sending them to regular training sessions at Counter Culture. And the first thing she asks someone in an interview is always their vision for their future goals. “We want to create a community here,” Selina says. ACP truly serves as a community center of sorts for the neighborhood—a center of exchange for art, local culture, and specialty coffee education.
Selina works long hours, but she loves it. “When you have a passion and you want to know something with depth, the best thing is to dive into a thing—immersion! You become immersed.”
Learn more about ACP Coffee here.