HIGHLAND PARK – OQ Coffee is expected to open in Highland Park before the end of year, offering customers a place to meet and roast their own coffee.
Three years ago, Ben Schellack opened OQ (Old Queens) Coffee, which was strictly a wholesale business, where his clients were grocery stores and restaurants. His roasting facilities were in Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick. But Schellack and his wife, Jessica, a city and regional planner, spent the last 18 months looking for a space to open a retail coffee shop.
“I knew we either wanted to be in Highland Park or New Brunswick. I love Highland Park and I love New Brunswick, but they are very different. We looked for a space that exemplified the twin values of showing off the quality of the coffee and the community and we chose Highland Park.
“We love the location and the building we’re in,” he said, adding that he and his wife have lived in Highland Park for the last five years.
James McCrone, executive director of Main Street Highland Park, the non-profit that promotes the businesses along Raritan Avenue and the downtown area, said, “anytime a business owner chooses Highland Park, it’s a good.”
“Main Street is so excited to welcome OQ Coffee to Highland Park. The process of selecting a town where you will plant roots – whether it’s to live or grow your business – is a delicate one and we’re happy that Highland Park meets all of Ben’s needs,” he said.
Schellack hopes to open the coffee shop in the next couple of weeks. Once OQ Coffee opens its doors at 13 South Third Ave. it will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. The 900 square-foot space will give Schellack the opportunity to bring in retail customers.
“There will be a bar for brewing espresso and filtering coffee, tea from a New Jersey company and light fare, such as pastries,” he said. “ We’re going to set up lighting on one of the walls so it will function as a gallery wall, so the space will serve as an art gallery.”
The local music scene will also have a place at OQ Coffee. “When you come in, you won’t hear the top 40 (songs,) but you will hear local music. Highland Park has a great local music scene,” he said. “And down the road, we will feature authors, community organizers and non-profit work.”
Schellack also wants OQ Coffee to be a place where people gather.
“You can go to the library, but there are not a lot of places where people can congregate and where you can meet people in Highland Park,” he said. And because of that, Schellack believes there is room for another coffee shop in Highland Park, he said, referring to PJ’s Coffee, which opened about six years ago. “They’re in the industry and they’re close by, but we need more places where people can enjoy meeting each other and that’s what we care about,” he said.
In addition to showcasing local talent and gathering space, Schellack also wants to give his coffee growers a platform to be recognized. “We spent time in February and March on farms to find coffee that’s unique, where the growers are interested in sustainability, and we want to make sure they get paid well, but that we also get a high-quality coffee,” he said. “We want to show off the farmers’ work – the brewed coffee and the roasting process.”
Shellack said the best coffee comes from places where the temperature is mild between the tropics of Capricorn and Cancer. OQ Coffee comes from Latin America, Africa and the Pacific.
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