Pocket Cafés: Half Pint Café


Editorial Policy

Published on

Last updated on

This post is part of Pocket Cafés, a series examining tiny spaces transformed into bustling coffee stops.

[C]ustomers need to feel a connection with a business to keep coming back—whether through thoughtful design, phenomenal coffee, or exceptional service. But baristas need a working space that allows them to curate a noteworthy experience.

Marco Johnson opened Half Pint Café in November of 2011. Because of timing with permits, he had only a matter of days to get the space up and running, allowing little time to customize equipment or bar layout. He decided to keep the café running on a less-than-ideal layout for the sake of revenue. “Initially you have to make do with what you have,” he says, “and then when you make money you can change that.”

In Portland’s Buckman neighborhood, Half Pint Café occupies the portion of the bottom two floors of a brick building where the freight elevator used to be. Johnson made minor adjustments as the business grew, then coordinated a major remodel late last year. The idea was to open up the bar and give baristas their own production area, without having to reach over one another.

(Photos: Cory Eldridge.)

Johnson drew on his years of bartending experience to build a bar that was efficient for two baristas. The new design has less refrigeration space than the original layout and slightly less storage, but a much better flow for customers and employees. The barista making drinks has ready access to everything. The barista near the register is closest to the pass-through area, easily able to leave the counter to bus dishes, make a run to the back storage area, or assist customers with retail purchases.

Johnson constantly thinks about the customer experience. “Every month or so I’ll come in and just stand here as a customer,” he says. He removed shelving along the shop’s walls during the remodel, giving guests more room as they walk into the shop. High ceilings, a wall of windows, and doors on opposing sides of the shop give the appearance of more space. But multiple points of entry can also cause confusion. “We have two doors for opportunity and confusion,” Johnson says. He emphasizes the importance of greeting guests and offering guidance. Especially in a small area, customers can be quickly alienated if they aren’t greeted. The careful design required to successfully execute a pocket café leaves a strongly personal touch—ensuring that customers feel invited into the space you’ve created is critical for success.

More in the series:

Introduction: Pocket Cafés

About Life Coffee Brewers

Grade Coffee

Tokyo Smoke

Story Coffee Company

Ellie Bradley is Fresh Cup‘s associate editor.

Share This Article

Ellie Bradley

Join 7,000+ coffee pros and get top stories, deals, and other industry goodies in your inbox each week.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Other Articles You May Like

Decaf Coffee, But Make It Specialty

Decaf coffee has come a long way over the last one hundred years, but can it join the third wave?
by Fionn Pooler | February 16, 2024

Welcoming Home Baristas Into Coffee: “It’s On Us, The Professionals”

More and more folks are finding a passion for coffee through swipes and likes, but who is the home barista? How can roasters and cafes welcome them into the larger coffee community?
by Miranda Haney | January 12, 2024

The Prototype of All Desire: How Processing Can Increase—and Improve—Sweetness in Robusta

Sweetness in coffee is often a marker of quality, but it’s often ignored when talking about Robusta. But small changes at the farm level can be the key to finding more sweetness in Robusta.
by Mikey Rinaldo | December 15, 2023

Latte Art and Alternative Milks: The Good, The Bad, and the Tasty

Milk steaming is a hard-earned skill; alternative milks don’t make this task easier. But with a few tips, you can easily toggle from oat to soy to almond.
by Zoe Stanley-Foreman | December 13, 2023