The wood interiors of Redstart Roasters’ new East Liberty café space invite coffee lovers to enjoy the Detective Building’s surprisingly warm ambiance. | Photo by @d.j.hohman.

This story was originally published on page 1 and 4 of BGC’s The Bulletin.

Matt Parmelee never thought he would own a coffee shop but, when opportunity came knocking, he could not turn it down.

A former software engineer, Parmelee began pivoting towards coffee in 2017, when he started roasting small batches as a side business called “Redstart Roasters.”

While selling his coffee at pop-ups, restaurants, the East Liberty Farmers Market, and other local events, Parmelee grew a strong customer base. Many Redstart faithfuls asked when he would open up his own brick & mortar space.

One of Parmelee’s loyal customers happened to be the property manager of East Liberty’s Detective Building (224 N. Euclid Ave.). After the property changed hands earlier this year, the manager approached him about opening up a café.

Redstart Roasters has now taken over the ground floor space formerly occupied by “The Bureau” coffee shop; this café space neighbors the Schoolhouse Electric showroom, a lighting and home décor retailer that is temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Understandably, there was some hesitation at the notion of opening a café in the current circumstances,” Parmelee explained. “However, given the unique opportunity of moving into the Detective Building space and seeing our wholesale café customers having minimal logistic issues, we felt like it was the right move for us.”

Redstart Roasters founder Matt Parmelee samples some of his small-batch coffee. He recently opened a Redstart café in East Liberty. Photo by @benprysbilla.

Coffee & conservation

Redstart Roasters takes a unique approach that brings conservation and good coffee together in one shared mission. All of its coffee bears the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center’s “Bird-Friendly” coffee certification, which ensures farms produce coffee beans in a way that minimizes or eliminates clear-cutting – the deforestation that runs rampant in the coffee farming industry.

“Bird-friendly farms opt instead to plant their crops more or less ‘as-is’ in existing, old-growth rainforests,” Parmelee explained. “This results in more interesting, shade-grown coffee, as well as the preservation of critical migratory bird habitats.”

Not unlike other certifications [Fair Trade, Organic, and Rainforest Alliance], Bird-Friendly farms can command a higher price for their crops, which helps to ensure all workers are paid a living wage.

Parmelee said this mission resonated with a lot of his customers at the East Liberty Farmers Market and other neighborhood pop-ups.

“Numerous customers explained the importance of our conservation and sustainability efforts, and how much it means to them on a personal level,” he shared.

Making a home in East liberty

“Our café was born fully from the hearts of East Liberty residents, and our plan is to serve and enrich our café’s new home in any way we can.”

For now, Redstart Roasters is opening with a “soft launch.” Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the café will be open – for takeout and limited seating only – every day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Its menu features a variety of single-origin coffees alongside espresso drinks and pastries sourced from local vendors.

Redstart will donate a portion of its proceeds to a different local charity each month; in August, the roasters raised $475 for Allegheny GoatScape.

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