For freelance writers, high school students studying for their SATs, and new moms looking to get out of the nursery, a coffeeshop can serve as a home away from home. Sarah and Rob May, alongside co-owners Glenn and Tammy Gerhard, have created just that type of comfort at Silk City Coffee in Manchester, CT. The couple, who are residents of Manchester, had dreamed of opening a coffeeshop together since they started dating during their freshman year of high school. “Honestly, this was something we always wanted to do and pictured ourselves doing this when we retired or way down the road…we didn’t think it was something we could actually do right now. When the opportunity arose, we did it,” said Sarah.
Silk City Coffee was inspired both by their immediate community in Manchester, as well as coffeeshops in the Pacific Northwest, which are known for small, aesthetically pleasing specialty coffeeshops. However, unlike the small, overpriced and somewhat intimidating coffeeshops Sarah and Rob visited in Portland, Oregon, Silk City Coffee is warm and inviting, just like the owners. The May’s note that it was important to have “a space that’s really comfortable, really cozy, not pretentious, has really great coffee and a bite to go with it. We really felt like Manchester needed that so having a really community based spot was at the heart of this.”
Both Sarah and Rob admit that they were a little nervous about opening Manchester’s first specialty coffeeshop. Sarah said they asked themselves, “does that not exist because that’s not what people want, or does it not exist because it’s just this strange, untapped thing and it’s our turn to do it?” In October 2016, they finally opened their doors and the community showed them this was a place Manchester was craving like a quality cup of coffee— “That weekend was an absolute thrill for us, there was a line out the door non-stop and the place was packed. Just to be welcomed like that into the community was just amazing,” said Sarah.
Their menu is larger than some specialty coffeeshops who only offer five items, notes Rob, but smaller than chains— unicorn lattes and peanut butter brownie frappuccinos, for example, were absent from the list, but cappuccinos, lattes, and other simple espresso-based drinks were present. They also have select some seasonal offerings including espresso poured over lemonade and espresso over lavender Italian soda.
Much like a welcoming household that you never want to leave, Silk City Coffee also offers delicious, freshly made baked goods and breakfast and lunch options for guests. Sarah, who has been developing her own recipes for years, wrote and created all of the recipes for the baked goods and sandwiches sold throughout the day. Rob explains that “We wanted to have a few items on the menu so that if you’re staying here for four hours, then you have something real to eat and you don’t have to interrupt your work.”
In terms of the décor, Sarah noted that “A lot of it is handmade, keeping the décor really simple, having neutral colors. Again, going back to this idea of making everyone feel comfortable and not like “oh my god that’s such a crazy space that I can’t even go in there.”
The May’s made sure that the space was welcoming to the community from front to back. One of the most impressive and inspiring initiatives they have established is a “Love Coffee, Love People” board. Customers and community members are welcome to write a personal need on a notecard and post it to the board—for example, guests are invited to write anything from “I just lost my job and I could really use a grocery store gift card” or “I’m pregnant and I can’t afford maternity clothes” or “I’m old I can’t rake, can someone come rake my leaves?” Sarah explains this is “not with the aim that we were going to be able to provide everything but more cultivating a community where they can meet each other’s needs and humanizing each other. Just having an area where people can post those I think is really important. We really want to keep the place community-centered.”
P.S.—Sarah used to be a wedding photographer, so their Instagram feed is filled with beautiful, aesthetically pleasing images that make you never want to leave their page (or their coffeeshop)!
Silk City Coffee is located at 763 Main Street in Manchester, CT. Call them at (860) 432-1805 or visit their Facebook page for updates on events and specials!