Big changes brewing for local coffee shop

The smell of roasted coffee beans will soon be drifting from Sheppard Street over to Patterson Avenue.

Since 2009, Black Hand Coffee has done business out of an 800-square-foot space in the Museum District, but owner Clay Gilbert wants to expand by spring.

“Right now we’re tucked in between a retail strip,” Gilbert said. “We’ll get to have our own identity with a single space.”

Black Hand is nestled at 606 N. Sheppard St. between a real estate firm, salon boutique Serenity and Cafe Diem.

The coffee shop will take over 3101 Patterson Ave., which previously housed a former laundromat that went dark about a year ago. Gilbert said the new spot is bigger and will allow the business to attract new patrons.

“There’s business we haven’t gotten, and I think we’ll increase traffic from the neighborhood and still retain our customer base,” he said.

The space on the corner of Patterson and Belmont will also allow the shop to expand its seating from about 15 to 50 with room for a front patio.

Bandazian and Holden, the firm that owns the Sheppard Street location, approached Gilbert a few months ago about expanding into the space. Gilbert said Bandazian also gave him the option to buy the property.

“There are not that many options to purchase in that area, so it was too good of a deal to pass up,” he said.

Gilbert, 37, signed the lease on the 1,000-square-foot space this month.

Black Hand sells coffee, sandwiches, pastries and bagels.

About 90 percent of the business still comes from the morning coffee cravers and lunch crowd, and lately lattes have been flying out of there faster than you can say “double shot, low fat, no foam, no whip.”

“Sales are up 53 percent over 2010,” Gilbert said. “A lot of that was due to Spielberg.”

Sadly, the famous movie director wasn’t frequenting the shop for his cup of joe, but Black Hand was selected in October as the coffee provider on the set of the Lincoln film shooting here.

“That really boosted our numbers,” he said. “This month we’re up $4,000 [over] the same month last year.”

Business has also picked up from the shop’s work with Hardywood Craft Brewery. In November, Black Hand helped produce the brewery’s latest beer, Mocha Belgique, a Belgian chocolate porter.

“We provided almost 100 pounds of coffee,” he said.

Gilbert plans to move his staff of four into the new space in April. Gilbert said that depending on demand he would expand the hours along with the menu to include some new breakfast dishes.

Read more: On the grind with a coffee entrepreneur

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5 Comments on "Big changes brewing for local coffee shop"

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Bob Wheatley

It’s nice to see this shop evolving. A couple of weeks ago, I had heard that the original owner, Robert, had passed away (R.I.P. Robert). When I first moved to Richmond, I used to go in and buy roasted coffee from him.
Way to go Clay for keeping the passion alive – I look forward to visiting the new location!

bill rider

Yeah! Black Hand roasts great beans and their lattes are truly exceptional!

Brian Forrester

I’m happy to hear they are moving into that space. I live in the neighborhood and will definitely swing by. The empty laundromat was kind of an eyesore, so it will be nice to have something happening there!

Casey Quinlan

I’ve always liked Black Hand, glad to hear they’re getting a bigger space. That was the only thumbs-down about the place. Now all are pointing skyward =)


Museum Place residents (condos next door at 3105) are very excited about this!