Campus favorite Nitro Cart brewers will open their first brick and mortar cafe this winter at 288 Broadway in a space shared with DASH Bicycle Shop. With construction for The Nitro Bar already underway in the existing bike shop, both vendors are excited to collaborate.
“It has always been a pipe dream of mine to open up a space for a community of people, especially something around craft coffee that’s locally sourced and sustainable,” said Audrey Finocchiaro, one of The Nitro Cart’s two owners.
Serendipitously, DASH owner Leo LaBelle was looking to bring in a hip coffee retailer to fulfill his longtime goal of creating a combined coffee bar and bike shop — a concept he has seen in a few cities across the country, he said. With its loyal clientele, strong brand, established Instagram following and young employees (all under the age of 25), The Nitro Cart fit the bill.
“The Nitro guys are onto a wave that we wouldn’t be able to keep up with,” LaBelle said. As a self-professed “old fart” at the age of 45, LaBelle expects that The Nitro Cart brand will prove a “good complement” to his existing store, he said.
“I’m a big fan of their brand,” said Sean Manning ’18.5, a loyal drinker of the nitro brew. “It’s cool seeing young people start a business like this.”
The plan is to open The Nitro Bar in December, said Andrew Tower, the architect and interior designer working on the project. He envisions the bike service counter and the coffee bar in “a continuous line through the room,” with the mechanic and barista working side-by-side separated by a pane of glass, he added.
“We’re not trying to make anything too pretty or too fancy,” Tower said, adding that he wants to maintain the cool simplicity the coffee brand has maintained since its launch last September.
The Nitro Cart started with just one cart in downtown Providence, Finocchiaro said. They soon added a second cart and brought both traveling coffee stations to campus, setting up shop on Waterman and George streets.
“We really connect with the Brown students,” Finocchiaro said. “We feel very similar to you guys.”
Business was good, and the company even installed nitro taps in some local restaurants, but the actual carts had to close for the winter. So when Labelle approached the cart owners this fall and asked if they would be interested in moving into part of his store to set up a nitro coffee bar, it posed a good business opportunity for the fledgling vendors, Finocchiaro said.
“His clientele is similar to ours, which I think will work out well,” Finocchiaro said, adding that she would describe their shared customer base as “millennials” — even though she hates the word. And Rhode Island local Finocchiaro had always liked DASH’s neighborhood — the west side of Providence — because it reminds her of Brooklyn, she said.
The coffee brewers’ 500-square-foot area within the bike shop “will be set up like a bar, with taps” of nitrogen-infused iced coffee, said Cole Criollos, a Nitro Cart employee.
Criollos mans The Nitro Cart on Waterman Street, but “probably won’t be out much longer” as the weather gets colder, he said. Now, with an indoor coffee bar at DASH, The Nitro Cart fans will have a home base all winter long.
“We have this really awesome community of people we’ve built around The Nitro Cart, and we’re excited to hang out together,” Finocchiaro said.
LaBelle hopes The Nitro Bar will not only get people in the store, but also encourage them to spend time there, offering an opportunity for cyclists to bond in a relaxed atmosphere, he said. The “social aspect” of coffee has the power to bring people together, he said. “The whole point of cycling is to get more people into cycling. If we sit down and have a coffee together, … that coffee just brought us closer.”
LaBelle estimates that currently, 80 to 90 percent of the store’s customers “will drop their bike off and go down the street to Seven Stars Bakery,” he said, adding that the in-house Nitro Bar will give these customers a more convenient option to grab a coffee as well as connect with fellow bikers.
Seven Stars Bakery, just four blocks west of DASH, is not too concerned about losing business to The Nitro Bar. “We’re more so in competition with bakeries as opposed to coffee shops,” said Peyton Helgeson, a Seven Stars employee. “We have pretty good business,” she said.
The Nitro Bar also doesn’t aim to take away business from any fellow cafes . “We don’t really think of people as competition because we’re doing our own thing and have this awesome community of supporters,” Finocchiaro said. “We feel positively toward other coffee shops.”
In addition to their signature nitro brew, The Nitro Bar will also introduce new nitro flavors and serve craft espresso drinks. They plan to sell around 10 varieties of Colombian pastries from Caprichos Antioqueños Bakery in Pawtucket, Finocchiaro said, adding that the authentic empanadas are one of her favorites. “I don’t know if I’ve ever tried something so good. It’s out of this world.”