The first independently owned coffee house in Allentown opened this weekend.
On Sunday, August 10, Black Forge Coffee opened its doors, making a yearlong dream a reality for owners Ashley Corts and Nick Miller.
“I used to live in Allentown back in 2009, and I remember having to walk to the Art Institute,” says Corts, “The businesses were really empty, and I remember thinking ‘There are all these opportunities to do awesome things in this great neighborhood.’”
Corts and Miller found the storefront space at 1206 Arlington Avenue in March and went the untraditional route to raise money. The duo launched an IndieGoGo campaign and received an interest-free loan from the Hebrew Free Loan Association in Squirrel Hill when traditional bank loans fell through. While it was an uphill battle to open the space, Corts and Miller had the Allentown community on their side.
“I can say thank you until I’m blue in the face, but it still would not adequately express my gratitude to everyone who has been so generous and supportive of our dream,” Corts said.
Corts and Miller found advocates everywhere in the Allentown community, from the Hilltop Alliance to the Hardware Store co-working space. “Once we brought up the idea to everyone, they just would not let it go,” says Corts.
“It’s an amazing community up here,” explains Corts. “Since we did our soft opening last week, everyone came in from the business district. They’ve been nothing but supportive–taking pictures, letting people know that we’re open […] I’ve never felt so welcome and so at home.”
Black Forge Coffee aims to be more than the typical coffee shop, with an emphasis on community and using Pittsburgh vendors.
“We’re 100% local,” says Corts, “from our pastries to our teas to our coffee.” Black Forge brews coffee from Zeke’s in East Liberty, and tea from Gryphon’s in Lawrenceville. Baked goods are brought in daily from ThreeFifty Bakery.
“We want Black Forge to be so many things for so many different people,” said Corts. “We’re located in a lower-income neighborhood so we made sure we can offer a cup of coffee for a dollar, but we also want to contribute to revitalizing this great neighborhood. We hope to become a destination place by the work of local artists on our walls and providing a stage for musicians to play and be heard.”
Black Forge has already started hosting community events, including a live podcast with Epicast Network during the shop’s opening weekend and participating in Startup Weekend Civic in the Fall.
Visit Black Forge Coffee’s website for events and hours.