Mr. (Coffee) Bean

Paul Martin

Photo By brad bynum

Bibo Coffee is a favored place to get caffeinated among RN&R readers. It’s been voted Best Coffee in our readers’ poll the last couple of years—even beating out a certain ubiquitous Seattle-based mega-chain. Owner Paul Martin chatted with us about Bibo’s recent expansion to a third location, 945 Record St., the former location of Record Street Café.

Tell me about the new location.

Well, we’re taking over Record Street, and hopefully we’ll be opening up next week—the first week of February. So we’re just doing a little bit of cleaning, a little bit of painting, but we’re just keeping the Record Street Café, the bones of that place, alive. We’re going to keep our menu from Bibo Coffee, as far as just really focusing on the coffee drinks, pastries, bagels and quick grab-and-go foods like that. We’re not going to do a full menu like they had at Record Street.

Are you keeping the Record Street name or will it be Bibo?

No, it will be Bibo. It will be Bibo Coffee at Record Street.

How does it feel to be expanding when a lot of local coffee shops are closing up?

Terrifying. It’s really scary, you know, but it was a really good opportunity. We’ve been looking into getting up into the university and that community up there for five or six years, and the time was right. I hate to say that, given the times we’re in right now, but it was a great opportunity for us, so we feel like we wanted to move forward. I think with what we do, we respect the consumer’s money, and try to offer up a good product at a good price, and respect their financial outlay and their time commitment, and so forth, so hopefully that works up there, as well. … I think with our product, the quick grab-and-go food and the coffee, and we’ll start doing some art shows, we’ll really be able to bring new life to it. The first couple of incarnations of Record Street were pretty successful, so hopefully we can go back in time a little bit, and get it happening again. Hopefully, it will be a good place to hang out.

You mentioned art shows?

We’re going to start doing art shows right when we open up. We’ve got Jen Graham, who’s worked for us for a couple of years now, she’s going to be our art director up there, and she’s going to be rotating art shows through there on a monthly basis.

What about music?

You know, we’ve got to look into it. I know the city needs a cabaret license, and honestly, I don’t know what’s entailed with that. We’ve got to check into that because we are going to be doing beer and wine, which will be a little bit of a departure from our other stores, and hopefully get a little bit of a late night crowd in there. But music wise, we’ll have to check with the city.

Why has Bibo become such a locals’ favorite?

You know what? I come back to … We focus on delivering a really good product, with really genuine service. We don’t script what our employees have to say or anything. Our employees are our employees. But you’re going to get good service with a good product, and it’s kind of about respect. We respect our customers’ choices. There’s a ton of choice out there, and we’re going to respect your time commitment—some people don’t have a lot of time to grab a cup of coffee—and we’re going to respect the money you lay down for a cup of coffee, so we’re going to give you a good product at a fair price. We’re going to treat you well when you walk through the door, just like somebody who walks through your door at home. That’s what we look for anyway.