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Sam James (PATH)

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on June 9, 2012

Sam James PathSam James (PATH) just wrapped up its inaugural week and its momentum at close shows no sign of slowing down.

I stop by the third and newest location on a Friday afternoon, when Sam James and his team are futilely trying to wrap up for the day. No dice. A constant stream of people seem to poke their heads in the custom-designed space, hoping to be able to get their hands on the last pull of the day. That goes on for a cool 20 minutes. Needless to say, the PATH has fully embraced Sam James.

Sam James PathJames and I finally get a chance to chat once the last customer is served, and he takes the opportunity to show me how the bar has been designed for ultimate time efficiency. "Here," he says, pointing out a nook by the grinders and La Marzocco Linea espresso machine. "This was cut out to be just the right size; the barista can get right in there." While the shaping of the bar might seem like a minor detail, Sam says even the littlest detail can make a big difference in a spot as busy as the PATH.

Sam James Path"I did a ton of research," he says when I ask about his other pre-PATH preparations. "I just sat, watched, and waited. I saw what men were ordering, what women were ordering, when they were coming down, and what else they were buying."

"Drip coffee is huge down here," he continues. "Some of the people who work upstairs are under a lot of pressure, and they need fuel; they'll come down four, five times a day, and they want something quick."

Same James PathJames has thus made the decision to invest in two premium drip machines, as well as two espresso machines and two cash registers. And though the concept may be of a slightly more accelerated form, the principle, as always, has stayed the same.

"Ideally, we really want to showcase what our skilled baristas can do," he says. "It's not about the brand," he adds, noting that they've refrained from actually putting up a "Sam James" sign.

Sam James PathNevertheless, some customers have, indeed, recognized the brand, familiar with the Sam James location near their home and now finding it at work. And the word has spread from there, so much so that new location has yet to experience a lull in its constant pulling of espressos ($2.62), mocha lattes ($3.58/$3.99) and from its serving treats from Delica Kitchen.

"We've been slammed," James says, "but it's a good thing."

With all of the activity I can't imagine Sam looking forward to another location, but I ask him about the possibility anyway.

Sam James Path"I'm always thinking about what I want to do next," he says, noting that it was about one year ago that he set his eyes on the PATH. "But this week, I've been working 12-hour days. For now, I'm just hoping to get this place into a routine." That routine — on the customer end, at least — is Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the expectation of a few latecomers hoping for one last latte.

Sam James PathPhotos by Denise McMullin



the lemur / June 9, 2012 at 09:52 am
The PATH is a really extensive network that connects many buildings. It would be helpful if you indicated in more detail where this new location was instead of just saying it's 'in the PATH' and that the PATH is a 'busy spot' (it's a bit more than a spot).

I'll take a guess: it says 150 King W under location and contact details, so ... Sun Life Centre? Somewhere around there?
sean / June 9, 2012 at 10:46 am
Totally agree with the lemur. I love how Robyn finds every new opening in the city, but the directions are almost as general as saying, yeah it's somewhere in Toronto.
Rachel / June 9, 2012 at 11:40 am
It's under Sun Life past Salad Creations across from the drycleaning place near the stairs heading towards FCP... the mocha latte was good! Didn't get to try the pastries yet.
lost / June 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm
if you look on the map, it shows 'the path' as a dotted line immediately underneath the address listed (150 king st. w.).

it seems pretty straightforward. not sure why that is so confusing or why you would go anywhere else on 'the path' to look for the location.
Jarrett / June 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm
This is really going to obstruct that wing of the PATH. I forget if there's one or two lineups, but no more than two people can be lined up in each line before it starts spilling out and blocking the PATH walkway.

Best direction? St. Andrew Subway Station and enter the PATH from there
Mir / June 9, 2012 at 05:00 pm
"...they've refrained from actually putting up a "Sam James" sign. " ?

There's a wall sign/logo in the bg of the portrait, directly following that sentence.
the lemur replying to a comment from lost / June 9, 2012 at 05:22 pm
The map wasn't loading, and in the PATH street addresses aren't as meaningful as building names.
the lemur replying to a comment from Rachel / June 9, 2012 at 05:27 pm
That's very helpful - thanks!
T replying to a comment from Mir / June 9, 2012 at 08:08 pm
Most businesses in that wing of the path have a similar sign, to make it easier to navigate/find what you need. I think what the writer was getting at is that there's no sign inside/directly above the shop. There's also no sign that says "Sam James Coffee Bar", just "SJCB". The sign that is in the hall is uniform to the other signs throughout the path and very unassuming.

Great coffee, great baristas. Here's to another one, Sam!
Steve / June 10, 2012 at 01:06 am
Ahh the self-importance of the indie coffee shop never gets old. "Ideally, we really want to showcase what our skilled baristas can do".

Please. Especially after emphasizing how important drip coffee (which cannot be impacted by the staff) is to the PATH customer base.

evan / June 10, 2012 at 03:21 am
"drip coffee (which cannot be impacted by the staff)"

Fatca replying to a comment from lost / June 10, 2012 at 07:40 am
The Google map is synched to the street address, not the PATH address (which doesn't have addresses for some reason).
kyle / June 10, 2012 at 03:50 pm
steve, go back to your tassimo.
T replying to a comment from Steve / June 10, 2012 at 07:39 pm
Ah, the self-importance of the internet commentator.
Holly replying to a comment from Steve / June 12, 2012 at 05:49 pm
You've obviously never had the espresso there.
Terry / June 15, 2012 at 02:33 pm
Wow - in the PATH here. So I can get Sam's coffee here and also on the way home on the bicycle (Harbord St.) Happy, happy!
Terry / June 21, 2012 at 03:40 pm
Been there done that liked it!
SmashTraves / August 7, 2012 at 03:51 pm
you probably think you've had great espresso drinks before... but until you sip a cappucino with no sweetening elements other than it's delicious self, and feel completely satisfied... you haven't
SJCB is what no other coffee bar is... perfect
Franca Luciani / August 11, 2012 at 12:18 pm
so im guessing this is in the underground mall , or some call it the hidden city.Toronto location. please without sarcasm, just correct me if im am not right..
Michael / November 6, 2012 at 12:07 am
Best coffee in Toronto!
NativeTorontonianAl / October 7, 2013 at 11:54 am
Not bad, but it was best when they had the week when the baristas here were in uniform, suits a la financial district employees. That's honestly the only time I would go to any Sam James. I don't want to go to a place where the people working there look like squeegee kids where nothing changes not matter how many times they've bathed.
Anna / November 25, 2013 at 03:33 pm
Did this Sam guy ever beat his assault charges? Would be good to know what happened there, I don't really want to support a criminal.
Greg Marcopini replying to a comment from sean / December 5, 2014 at 02:46 am
Yeah, I made a left and Wham! I wasn't in Kansas anymore lol
Shy Ronnie / April 29, 2015 at 05:43 am
Sam James was charged with assaulting a group of anti-abortion protesters about two yearsa ago. What became of that charge?

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