Grace Coffee Co. brings a taste of Seattle coffee culture to the heart of downtown Madison
Be sure to meet the shop's cute and furry mascot!
Mallory Orr started drinking coffee when she was 12 years old, but only drinking the sugary, creamy, covered in chocolate syrup kind. At 19, she got her first barista job in her hometown of Seattle where she learned there is a lot more to coffee than cream and sugar–and a lot more to coffee shops than a register and some tables.
“I realized I had a knack for [being a barista], not just for the coffee part but for managing, creating a community and customer service too,” Orr says. “I recognized I had that ability and strength, so I was like, ‘man, I really want to do this. I could never get tired of this.'”
After growing up in the coffee capitol of the United States, it’s no surprise she met her fiance and business partner Carlos Falcon in the coffee business six years ago. Falcon owned and operated two coffee shops in Seattle, but saw the Midwest as an opportunity, an untapped market for trendy coffee culture.
Last December, the couple decided to open a Seattle-inspired coffee shop in Madison. Construction began at the end of January, and Grace Coffee Co. opened in mid-May, right in the middle of State Street.
Orr says the eight coffee shops lining State Street wasn’t a concern, “To us it’s like, ‘there’s only eight? That’s it?’ So, it’s not intimidating. And we’re so different — every place has something different to offer.”
Grace Coffee Co. replaced Sacred Feather, a hat shop that closed in January after nearly 45 years in the historic brownstone storefront location. Orr says the building was the perfect home for a coffee shop that combines eccentric and modern vibes.
“It’s a super quirky building, and I really love it because I love old, vintage stuff and [Falcon] likes trendy, modern, industrial kinds of things,” Orr says. “I think we blended the two really well.”
What makes Grace Coffee Co. really stand out isn’t the building or the decor, but their third employee; a 2-year-old Bernese mountain dog named Pablo. The trained service dog completed the trio when Falcon owned Evoke, a Seattle-based coffee shop, where Pablo quickly became the mascot and spent his days lounging around the shop greeting guests. Orr says having a service dog in-house is an important part of creating a welcoming, homey space for guests.
“Animals provide that instant peace because they’re a barrier between awkwardness, and they’re welcoming and inviting,” Orr says. “Whatever is going on in [a customer’s] day, as soon as they see him there’s just this big smile, and I appreciate that because I know how that feels–the excitement and the joy he brings.”
Grace uses Heart Coffee Roasters beans out of Portland, Oregon, for that “taste-of-the-West” authenticity. Right now, they are offering three types of espresso; two single origins (one Ethiopian and one Columbian) and a blend of two Ethiopian beans. Orr says she is surprised at how many folks are ordering espresso, but it’s been a joy to teach customers the nuances between different flavor profiles.
There’s also a full selection of lattes, mochas and teas, like the iced lavender latte, which is a refreshing summer pick-me-up. Orr says Madison seems ready for a leap forward in its coffee scene, with customers coming into Grace excited to learn the intricacies of different beans and blends.
“It’s similar to wine: where it comes from, how it’s grown, how it’s processed and how it’s prepared. All of those things are factors, and when you recognize and appreciate all of those things, you can like what you can get from coffee,” Orr says.
As for the food menu, “We give a lot for what we charge.” Orr says. Grace sources pastries from Madison Sourdough, breads from Whole Foods and other ingredients from the Willy Street Co-op. The Croque Madame is a hefty toasted breakfast sammie with French ham and cheese, topped with a flavorful fried egg.
If you’re craving something sweet, try an açai bowl. The traditional version is dressed with seasonal berries, bananas, granola and coconut shavings and drizzled with sweetened condensed milk and honey.
Grace isn’t named after a person or place. Orr and Falcon picked the name because of the meaning behind the word. Orr says the world needs more grace, and a peaceful coffee shop with a friendly dog, stellar coffee and delicious food can be the perfect haven for busy locals just looking for a place to feel at home.
“I want to give people what I would want, and that’s just somewhere to call home where I know people are going to greet me when I come in, they’re going to know what I like, know my drink and be someone I can talk to,” Orr says. “No matter the chaos that’s going on outside of the shop, what is inside the shop is constant and dependable, and that’s really valuable for people.”
COPYRIGHT 2021 BY MADISON MAGAZINE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED.