Coffee maker brewing cafe spot in the Bottom

ironclad new site

Ironclad Coffee Roasters is planning a cafe at 1805 E. Grace St. (Mike Platania)

A century-old Shockoe Bottom building that once housed firehoses and axes soon will be serving up espresso and pastries.

Ironclad Coffee Roasters is preparing to open a cafe in the former fire station building at 1805 E. Grace St.

Ironclad signed a lease last month for 2,200 square feet on the bottom floor of the three-story building. The lease does not include a separate third-floor space.

Joyner Commercial’s Bill Phillips represented Ironclad in lease negotiations.

Ironclad owner Ryan O’Rourke, who opened the business in 2016 with his wife Kelly, said they walked their dogs past the firehouse for years after moving to the neighborhood and took notice of the building.

“We started remarking what a unique building it was,” O’Rourke said. “We were like, ‘What’s the deal with this place? It’s one of the neatest buildings in Richmond. Why isn’t anyone in it?’ We just started saying this would be a fantastic place to have a cafe.”

Ironclad is based at 2904 W. Moore St. in Scott’s Addition, where it also sells beans by the bag. O’Rourke said the Scott’s Addition roastery will remain in operation, while its retail operations will move to the new cafe.

While it won’t have a kitchen in house, O’Rourke said the cafe will serve food, mostly from wholesalers such as Red Cap Patisserie, Lark Baking Co. & Market and C&C’s Cinnamon Rolls.

Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O’Rourke

To go with its coffee and espresso drinks, O’Rourke said he plans to supply the cafe with locally made milk and cream from a to-be-determined creamery.

The two-story space includes a ground floor and mezzanine that will seat about 40, with additional outdoor seating in an adjacent courtyard. Buildout on the historic space will be minimal, O’Rourke said, with local designer Caroline McIlraith handling interior design. A contractor has not been selected for the project.

O’Rourke is aiming to open the cafe by May 1.

In addition to its retail presence, Ironclad has about 50 wholesale accounts, mostly in Virginia. O’Rourke said he hopes to expand its distribution footprint throughout the Mid-Atlantic, while using the cafe to boost its local presence. Ironclad is launching a crowdfunding campaign this week to help fund the opening.

“I think the cafe will be a showcase for us. I think there’s a lot of people out there that know our name but haven’t had our coffee,” he said.

Local coffee roasters have been staying busy of late.

Last year,Lamplighter Coffee Roasters took over additional space near its Scott’s Addition location, while Black Hand Coffee Co. opened a location in Northside. In August, Confluence Coffee Co. rebranded to Convergent Coffee Co. as it prepared to expand nationally.

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