It's now the closest coffee shop to the Dupont South metro station, and it doesn't even begin with "Star." Hiding between Ben and Jerry's and Olsson's bookstore on 19th Street, two-week old Saxbys Coffee is perfectly positioned for the 3,000 working professionals that walk by during the pre-9 AM rush hour every morning. Ryan Égle, who owns the downtown offshoot of the Denver-based java franchise, counted the commuters himself one morning.
This isn't Égle's first Saxbys opening. Last fall, he and and brother Jack Égle, a fellow DC-area developer, unveiled a shop (3500 O St., NW; 202-338-3777) that’s two blocks from Georgetown University. Most students assume "Saxbys" has something to do with Hoya Saxa. Égle is apt to nod and assure them it sure could. "It can mean whatever you want," Ryan says. A Fairfax location on Braddock Road is slated to open in a few weeks, and will likely develop its own Saxbys genesis story too.
So what's their deal? Coffee-wise, Saxbys uses a slow-roasted bean that tastes less acidic than competitors' brews.They offer David Rio gourmet teas, usually sold at department stores like Neiman Marcus, and have a host of cookie-themed "coffee" drinks. The Chocolate Chip Frolatte blends chocolate chips with cappuccino powder, and tastes more like a milkshake than an actual coffee drink. The kid-friendly Kookie Monster is made with real Oreo chunks and doesn’t contain any coffee at all. The wireless internet is free, and Égle is seeking permission from the city to put tables and chairs outside.
Though Saxbys is a national chain, they pay attention to the little things. The whipped cream is made from scratch. And a computerized register archives every order so that each customer has a profile and drink preferences are accessible with a swipe of a Saxbys "Go" card. It also helps the Égle brothers associate names with faces and make small talk, since the place is all about the personal touch.
When the Georgetown shop opened nine months ago, Saxbys employees–many of them Égle family members–wasted no time. They made batches of blue whipped cream for school-spirited drinks, organized brackets for the Hoya's Final Four basketball season, and hung balloons for graduation. The Dupont location won't have the same Hoya flavor–think sleek countertops, not cobblestone, and far fewer uniform-clad teenage girls from Georgetown Visitation up the block. But we bet they'll come up with something to make it feel like home.
Saxbys Coffee, 1309 19th Street, NW; 202-223-9590; Saxbyscoffee.com.