Felix Roasting Co. in New York City. Photo by Adrian Gaut
EVERY COFFEE HAS A STORY.
So goes the motto of Felix Roasting Co., a newly opened café in New York City’s Park Avenue South neighborhood.
The story behind Felix itself was a long four years in the making. But with hotelier Matt Moinian’s passion, persistence, and knack for assembling the right team, what New Yorkers now have is an elevated, painstakingly curated coffee program. From its careful, seasonal sourcing of the world’s freshest coffee beans, to its explorative menu of innovative beverages and exquisite pastries, to its ornamental aesthetics featuring a bold palette of navy, teal, and shell pink, Felix Roasting Co. is quickly establishing itself as a tour de force on the New York coffee scene.
A Novel Beginning
As anyone who has ever taken on a major, all-consuming endeavor knows, a feeling of “Okay, now what?” settles in once it’s completed. Moinian was no exception after he successfully finished building Hotel Hugo, a luxury boutique hotel in SoHo, in 2014. Not only was there this sense of “What’s next?” he says, but he also turned 30 that year, and began finding that his body wasn’t performing as well as in his twenties.
“I started asking myself, ‘What am I going to do to wake up a little earlier to exercise and take care of myself?’” he says.
As he gradually turned more and more to coffee, he sought out different cafés and coffee shops—but felt that something was always lacking.
“I started feeling like I could do better,” he says. “But what did I know about coffee? At that point, not very much.”
So he began studying the coffee industry and turning to colleagues who were immersed in the field for guidance, and eventually his dream started to seem more attainable. As he became more excited for this pursuit, he realized he’d need to assemble the best team possible to make his vision come true.
“I thought, if I’m going to enter this field, I’m going to do it with the best people, and we’re going to come out with something that really makes a difference,” he says.
Enter Ken Fulk.
An Elevated Experience
Moinian had seen Ken Fulk’s work in action during the 2017 New York Fashion Week, for which the renowned Bay Area designer was commissioned to create the VIP lounges. Blown away by the opulent, splashy style, Moinian immediately knew this was the designer he wanted to work with for Felix.
While the relationship took some time to develop, Fulk eventually signed on to not only design Felix, but to act as Creative Director—marking the first time he has ever been a partner of a venture.
Working with Fulk, says Moinian, has been a very collaborative process. Envisioning a highly aesthetic, holistic, and immersive space for the café, Moinian has been more than happy with the results Fulk and his team delivered.
“They really took the fantasy that was in my head and put it into their language and created this unbelievable experience,” says Moinian.
Stepping in from the bustle that is Park Avenue South, one is immediately greeted by a sense of elegance, style, and comfort. The first element that catches the eye may be the plush booths that run along the walls; or it could be the alternating teal-and-pink-patterned terrazzo floor; or perhaps it’s the grand wood-paneled coffee bar, behind which the baristas are busy carefully crafting their beverages.
Seemingly separate pieces of design, upon further examination one notices just how cohesively these striking elements work together to begin telling Felix’s story. Along with the hand-painted wallpaper featuring the bloom of an Arabica plant, the hand-leafed copper dome anchored in the middle of the bar, and other custom-designed pieces, the 1,719-square-foot interior of Felix is a completely seamless, indeed almost transportational experience.
A Showstopping Menu
The café’s combination of vibrant opulence balanced with a cozy comfort is only part of what has made residents of and visitors to the neighborhood relentlessly flock to Felix since opening its doors in late September.
A quick scan through Instagram reflects just how popular this joint has become in such a short amount of time—large in part due to its impeccable aesthetics, but also because of its menu. Exclusive pastries from NYC favorite Supermoon Bakehouse are featured, traditional café fare includes lattes, flat whites, and mochas (that can be made with their house-made almond-cashew-pepita milk on tap), and original, elaborate drinks including the Deconstructed Espresso Tonic, Late Summer Shrub, and Felix’s showstopper: the Hickory-Smoked S’mores Latte.
Running at $13 a drink, and only available in store, the specialty latte begins with graham cracker-infused milk and espresso poured into a cocktail glass rimmed with dark chocolate and crumbled graham crackers. The drink then goes under a bell jar with a hose attached to a container of hickory chips, which are burned to pump smoke into the jar. As a final touch, the drink is garnished with a torched house-made salted caramel marshmallow on a stick.
The Hickory-Smoked S’mores Latte, along with the other beverages, was the brainchild of head barista Reagan Petrehn, who also serves as Head of Brand. With over seven years in the coffee industry, Petrehn, originally from Kansas City, Kansas, was suggested to Moinian through a colleague as he began the search for someone to help lead the curation of the menu.
“Reagan was the first and only person that I met to fill that position,” says Moinian. “I met with Reagan, and after ten minutes, it was like, ‘end of story.’”
Drawing inspiration from fine dining, the dynamic neighborhood surroundings, and the bold design of Felix itself, Petrehn is dedicated to ensuring the vibrancy and freshness of the café’s beverage offerings, a mindset that is reflected in how they source their coffee. Felix sources beans from all over the world in small quantities, continuously rotating them out with what’s in season. As of their grand opening, that included beans from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Guatemala, but they’ll be looking at South and Central Americas in the coming months.
“The idea is that we’re going to burn through it really fast so that we’re ready to purchase what’s in season,” says Petrehn. “That way it stays really vibrant, stays really fresh, and it challenges us as a company to continue to pursue the next best thing.”
Crafting the drinks is a team of about 10 baristas, all carefully selected from a diverse applicant pool. Petrehn, acknowledging the industry-wide challenge of finding—and keeping—a strong staff, says that the company has created an environment conducive to training and retaining its baristas, including offering a sustainable lifestyle and living wage.
“We put a lot of thought into who we hire,” he says, “and into how we bring them on board and the way we treat them in the company.”
That practice translates into how the staff interacts with their customers, providing quality customer service that enhances each visit.
“That’s what sets us apart,” says Petrehn. “You walk in and not only is the coffee gonna blow your mind, but you have all this other stuff—you have this beautiful space, and you have this incredible hospitality.”
Coming up in the Felix brand is The Cellar, a soon-to-open downstairs space that will be tailored for hosting tastings, classes, and special events.
Accessed in the back of the café, a terra cotta-walled staircase leads down to a custom mosaic-patterned landing.
“This staircase moment is a real transformation from upstairs to downstairs,” says Moinian. “You’ll feel like you’re in a completely different place, which is one of our themes.”
Inside the room, which Moinian describes as “a northern Italian wine cellar of a 19th-century Italian baron who was obsessed with coffee,” will be a long tasting table, antique mirrors, and an island bar, ideally situated for presentations and showcasing their coffee beans.
Since The Cellar was not part of the original plan of Felix, the team was excited to have a space to take their brand further once the main design began taking shape.
“We learned what Felix is like [upstairs], so we took those lessons and brought it down here,” says Moinian. “This is an even more thought-out space for us.”
The Cellar is just the touch Felix needed to truly elevate its brand: showcasing the beans and their stories, illustrating the passion, care, and knowledge of the coffee being served, and educating and engaging further with customers.
“It’s equating Felix with the kind of quality coffee that we’re trying to express,” says Moinian.
A palpable sense of pride comes over the entrepreneur as he reflects on Felix’s journey.
“It’s been a four-year project for me in a space that I hardly knew anything about when I started,” he says. “My biggest contribution has been bringing the right people together that would never otherwise have worked together…and creating this beautiful thing that Felix is.”
As he looks to the future, Moinian says they’re looking to expand Felix by distributing their beans into restaurants and supermarkets, as well as opening cafés in Los Angeles, Miami, London, and Tokyo. While those pieces are still at work, the Felix team optimistically asserts its solid arrival on the East Coast coffee scene.
“This is the start of an institution in New York City,” says Petrehn. “We’re only going to go up from where we already are.”