Happy National Coffee Day! We originally ran this piece on March 25, 2016. There are still lines every morning at Philz.
Adams Morgan did not need another coffee shop. Philz Coffee, located near the corner of 18th and Columbia, at 1827 Adams Mill Rd NW, is less than a block away from a Starbucks. And less than a block away from Songbyrd. And Tryst. But I’m very glad Philz Coffee is opening in Adams Morgan this weekend.
Seemingly all of D.C. media is thrilled about the new Philz location. It’s the first outside of California so I guess it warrants USA Today coverage? It seems a little overblown to heap such praise on a coffee shop. But it’s worth it.
The story isn’t on the quality of the coffee, though it is great stuff. But Compass Coffee also makes great beans. And so does La Colombe. But beans don’t mean much if it’s not done right. For example, where BYT works has communal coffee and it’s from La Colombe beans and it’s horrendous because it’s prepared in the type of coffee urns you see in church basements and there’s no reason to do things like properly measure beans to water. The people are Philz are really into things like properly measuring beans to water.
The story isn’t about a small business growing a loyal and large fanbase. Starbucks did that. We’re not writing about every new Starbucks.
The reason why Philz is getting a lot of attention is owner and founder Phil Jaber. The guy is great. He must also be a publicist’s nightmare.
Jaber loves what he does. He’s the face and name of the brand, appearing on stickers and in the store’s name. His children, specifically his son Jacob, will take over the business when he’s done. He clearly loves his children. And he wants you to know it.
Philz didn’t begin as a coffee shop. Jaber opened Gateway Liquor and Deli in 1976 as a CostCo-esque store that sold a little of everything. While working in the store he began developing a coffee he liked. It took 7 years. The result is Tesora. It’s Philz’ signature blend.
Phil Jaber is a loveable man. He’s the stranger that you don’t mind talking to, in fact, you kind of want to be his friend after talking with the owner. He’s able to say things, things that sound like bullshit PR, and come off as genuine. When we asked him why he opened his first store in the 90s, he told us, “I didn’t have money, I had a concept.” Coming from Phil it sounded believable. Coming from a millennial he’d be a douchebag. But Phil is not a douchebag. He just wanted to create a coffee shop that served good coffee where strangers would meet.
The owners of Philz want to make their place like grandma’s house. That’s a noble and welcome goal. And that’s why everyone is raving about Philz. Yes, the coffee is great, in a different class than Starbucks, but it’s successful because of a stubborn positivity and outlook.
We asked Phil where he’s from. He told us, “under the canopy of heavy.” He believes it.