Audubon High School alums John Gordon and Kate Powell will cut the ribbon on their new coffee shop this weekend.
By Matt Skoufalos | October 28, 2021
Back in June, John Gordon and Kate Powell of Audubon announced plans to revive the former Tree House coffee shop on West Merchant Street as Brown Dog Café.
After months of work, they’ll cut the ribbon on their storefront Saturday morning.
“If we really take a step back and see what we’ve accomplished, we have moments of sheer gratitude,” Powell said.
“We leaned on each other, stayed focused on the purpose behind the coffee shop, and stayed grounded in faith,” she said.
With its doors open to the community, Powell said she wants Brown Dog to become a place for gathering and making memories. To that end, the coffee shop is decorated in earth tones that resonate with dark warmth.
The focal piece of the space is a mustard sofa, flanked by a pair of deep, leather-wrapped, lounge chairs around a custom coffee table. Live-edge wood tables and half-back bar chairs line the far wall, with tall café tables clustered in the center.
“We designed the place around that couch and those tables,” Powell said. “They’re very comfortable and very laid-back, but more sophisticated.
“I love balancing the harshness with softness,” she said. “I don’t love pristine stuff, so when it gets worn in and the memories are there, and you see it, that’s when it becomes a piece to me.”
The front counter features a custom bar that Gordon built himself, and at which he’ll offer pour-over drinks served in Chemex coffee makers.
Known for its lab-grade paper inserts, Chemex boasts a regulated filtration rate that allows more of the desirable flavors of the coffee to emerge.
Brown Dog will be the first customer-facing storefront in South Jersey to serve Elixr brand coffee, a Philadelphia small-batch roaster.
Elixr co-founder Evan Inatome, from whom Gordon received formal barista training, will be on hand for Saturday’s grand opening to pour drinks and mingle with guests.
Brown Dog will serve Elixr Beekeeper blend, a blend of Brazilian, Colombian, and East African or Central American beans, as its drip coffee. The Weekender, which Elixr describes as “a darker, brunch blend,” will be featured in its cold brew coffees; Gordon said he’ll also showcase pour-overs from other local roasteries in the future.
The menu at Brown Dog includes drip coffee and espresso drinks: lattes, cappuccinos, cortados, mochas, and americanos. Flavored syrups are all made in-house, and without artificial flavors, and Gordon prides himself on delivering a consistent customer experience with every pour.
“I like how exact you can get it through weights and times, and that is a relief to me,” he said. “I don’t want people to wait for their favorite barista to come in and make their drink.”
With daytime hours from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the café plans to serve light fare; a variety of pastries and grab-and-go items will follow in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to need a little patience in figuring out what’s really going to work in the space, and what the community needs from us,” Gordon said.
“There’s definitely going to be adjustments.
“We’re never finite, we’re never stuck on one set rule,” he said.
“Having that mindset will get us all to what we want.”
If the feelings of time and intention sunk into a place or an object is what gives it meaning, Brown Dog already has months of effort invested in getting its doors open.
Now, Powell and Gordon say, they’re ready to give it over to the community to inspire more memory-making.
“It’s [for] gathering and memories and community,” Powell said; “a place for laughter and maybe even for healing, I hope.”
“We wanted something for everyone,” Gordon said.
Brown Dog Café is located at 120 West Merchant Street in Audubon. For more information, visit browndogcafe.net or call 856-544-9301.
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