Monday, May 29, 2023

Novel Point Coffee Wakes Up Downtown

Caffeinated Entrepreneurs Come In To FOCUS


As most people know, Albuquerque has evolved into a microbrew town, with a new local brewery popping up seemingly every day. At the same time, however, the city has quietly become a gourmet coffee place, with countless neighborhood shops competing successfully against national chains. Evidently, beer isn't the only thing Albuquerque is brewing up these days.

Novel Point Coffee is at the forefront of that eye-opening movement. The Downtown area business is the dream of three young, entrepreneurial coffee-lovers. Alex Espinosa is the owner and operations manager. Erin Mitchell is the owner and media manager. Ariel Garcia is the owner and brand manager.

Their small but increasingly popular shop sprang up in late November in the lobby of FUSION Theatre (formerly The Cell Theatre), part of the FUSION arts and culture space along First Street on the north side of Downtown.

Novel Point started out life in a very different neighborhood, however. In December of 2021 the creators of Novel Point hooked up with La Esquinita, an innovative marketplace, community hub and business incubator located at Fourth and Coal just the south of Downtown. Spearheaded by the Barelas Community Coalition, La Esquinita featured a cooperative marketplace with a mix of permanent and temporary businesses. "We were the first permanent business," says Espinosa. During the year Novel Point spent at La Esquinita, the business incubator supplied them with "affordable rent and the ability to use their kitchen and dishwashing area. They taught us business practices and gave us free branding. That's where our logo design came from." 

But Novel Point joined La Esquinita at the peak of COVID, and business soon stalled. "We saw things not moving," says Espinosa. So the business owners decided they "wanted to find another space." They turned to Danielle Schlobohm with DowntownABQ MainStreet and Arts & Cultural District, who directed them toward Dennis Gromelski at FUSION. Gromelski was looking to add a coffee shop to his still-growing multi-use compound off Lomas and First, and Novel Point showed up just in time to contribute their espresso machines and panini presses.

"It's really cool," says Espinosa. "Dennis has his own little community of arts and culture. We get to be a part of their network. At the same time we function as a little environment in and of ourselves."

Though it does business primarily during the day, Novel Point occasionally stays open during Downtown ArtWalks and for the live shows at FUSION Theatre, allowing art lovers to stop and sip.

Although many Downtown eateries rely on 9-to-5 office workers, Espinosa points out that Novel Point's customers are largely "not commuters." The typical patron comes from the surrounding neighborhood, "a young student who works remotely as opposed to the rush in and rush out crowd." You can spot them sipping lattes and hovering over their laptops during the eatery's hours: weekdays and Saturdays, 10am to 4pm. To encourage this sort of digital camping, Novel Point recently added a menu of breakfast and lunch items. Breakfast burritos and yogurt bowls are among the early morning offerings. Pastrami reubens and chickpea salad sandwiches show up later in the day.

Espinosa concedes that Novel Point is a "drink-forward location." Among the most popular items are the "pour overs"—a selection of single origin coffees (Kenya, Colombia, Brazil) brewed by the cup. Currently, Novel Point gets its beans from Villa Miryam, a local coffee roaster located just around the corner on Commercial St. Eventually, however, Espinosa hopes to "source our own coffee." The restaurant is on the wait list for a high-tech electric roaster, which will allow Novel Point to become "our own micro-roastery in the future."

"We're excited about everything," says Espinosa in regards to his shop's "fresh restart" in an up-and-coming neighborhood. He cites FUSION's continued growth and the "future blessing" of the proposed Downtown Rail Trail as "big motivation" for Novel Point's new location choice.

"We feel like a part of our community," says Espinosa as he happily stirs a pot of Novel Point's popular flavored drink syrups. "Coffee means more to us than just caffeine."


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