By Claire Byun
A former Central City coffee shop opened its doors in a new Mid-City location last week, and locals say the small eatery is fitting in well with the neighborhood.
Church Alley Coffee Bar, now located at 4201 Canal St., moved from Central City a few months ago. Renee Blanchard, owner, said she wanted a location with a little less commercial structures and more community appeal.
“We really wanted to be settled into a neighborhood,” Blanchard said. “Mid-City is a place i’ve wanted to come for a long time.”
Blanchard, a New Iberia native with a background as a social justice and community organizer, kickstarted Church Alley in Central City in January 2013. The shop moved inside the Zeitgeist Multi-Disciplinary Arts Center on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard in May 2014. The Central City location closed in December and Blanchard opened the Mid-City shop about a week ago.
The shop is snuggled on the corner of Canal and North Solomon streets, a block from Cafe Minh and the Louisiana Running and Walking Company. Natural light filters in through a wall of windows, highlighting the open seating leading to the coffee bar. A big wooden bar – made just for the space – holds trays of pastries, muffins, bars and bagels waiting to be eaten up.
The GOOD Shop, a collaboration featuring four New Orleans social good businesses, is tucked into a corner of Church Alley. The GOOD Shop features an array of clothing, jewelry and art.
There’s also a side room with seating that could be used by community organizations or during fundraisers, Blanchard said. Church Alley focuses on freshly brewed microroasts and a small, healthy food menu for breakfast and lunch.
The new location has brought in a swarm of new customers, though plenty of former customers still stop in for their morning coffees and muffins. Claire Mehling, Church Alley patron, said the Mid-City location is the best fit so far.
“It feels like it’s finally reached its home,” Mehling said.
Mehling patronized the OC Haley Boulevard location when she was in the area, but the Mid-City location is much more convenient. Thought the shop has only been open for a little more than a week, Mehling has visited twice.
The quality of the coffee, plus the always-delcious menu keeps bring Mehling back.
“The space has its own personality,” she said. “[Blanchard] has maintained that vibe, even through different locations.”
Blanchard launched Church Alley in 2013 after she realized she wanted a place where people could talk about social issues in a relaxed space. As a community organizer and writer, Blanchard discussed those issues online, but “wanted to get what I was doing online to the outside world.”
Mid-City is the perfect new spot for those ideals, coffee barista Caressa Chester said. Canal Street is much more accessibly to most people, Chester said, and since the shop is nestled into a neighborhood there are more opportunities for new customers.
“It’s really brought in a diverse crowd,” Chester said.
The shop is currently open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sundays from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Blanchard said she’s looking to expand hours sometime during the summer.
To celebrate the new location, Church Alley is hosting a grand opening crawfish boil Saturday from 2 to 6 p.m. REady-to-eat crawfish will be sold by donation per pound, with donations going toward coastal restoration.
Treats from Window Sill Pie will also be available during the boil, and the coffee bar will stay open as well.
“It’s going to be great,” Chester said.