Sam James Coffee Pocket

Sam James to open second location

Barista Sam James will open the doors to a surprise second location, Sam James Coffee Pocket, at 688 A Bloor Street West sometime this weekend. The media darling, whose Harbord Street Sam James Coffee Bar was the winner of our recent Best Cappuccino in Toronto poll, decided to keep his second, 120 square-foot, location a secret until today. I met up with James a few hours ago to get the scoop.

Why open a second location?

Why not? I just wanted to.

Why open so close to your previous location, Sam James Coffee Bar?

That's how drug dealers do it, right? [laughs] Before I opened [SJCB], I wanted to open two shops. That's been my plan since day one.

Do you think you'll be in competition with yourself?

No. I think there is a lot of density in the Annex that is untapped by independent coffee shops. [The first] location is great because it is off the track a little bit; you have to appreciate good coffee and come out of your way and get down there. We've built a really loyal clientele who we can now offer a little more convenience to those on their way to the subway, at Christie Pits Park or at Tacos El Asador next door. There are a lot of people in the Annex that do not know about [SJCB]. I think this is a really good opportunity to introduce those people to what we do down there as well.

Will you stop at two, or do you have greater ambitions to take over the city?

Three is the most you can do and maintain quality. I am going to stop at two for now and when the time comes, I'll open another one.

How will you divide your time between the two locations?

Pretty equally. In the beginning, I will be at the new location a lot more than [SJCB] to make sure it is getting off the ground properly and to make sure I know that section of the neighbourhood.

What can you tell us about the new space?

It's 120 square feet: walk in, walk out. It is almost entirely 'to go', except for espresso which we can do 'for here', there is no decaf, no drip coffee, just a quality espresso bar. It is very clear where to order and where to pick up your coffee: it will be tight, but it will have a flow. It won't be hard to create a line-up there, its shoulder to shoulder at 8 people, but I think it will look impressive to have crowds of people waiting to get into this small little 'pocket'.

Why all the secrecy?

I think it is fun. The first shop had a lot of publicity before we opened, and I am really into this concept of doing the opposite of what is expected or what I should do. I think its fun to have that element of surprise, to keep it under wraps and then drop it like, 'Oh yeah, second location opens this weekend.

What will be different about Sam James Coffee Pocket?

It is a really great looking space too, compared to the first location it is a lot more contemporary, way more minimalist with less visual clutter. But the stuff that is in there is so striking and contrasting to how small the space is. And the menu itself is just so cool.

What is the menu?

You'll have to wait and see.

Sam James Coffee Pocket hopes to open this Saturday, November 27th at 9 am. Stay tuned to their Twitter for details. 688 A Bloor Street West. Hours: Mon. to Fri.: 6:30am - 8pm. Sat and Sun: 9am-5pm.

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