CAMDEN—Fifteen years ago, Sondra and Jim Hamilton launched a little coffee shop in the heart of downtown Camden on a shoestring budget with fun, eclectic decor.
Today, with more than a decade under their belts and a loyal customer following, Zoot Coffee will continue its artsy vibe in a new, enlarged space, only a few doors down the street.
While the coffee shop is still open in its current location, they’re in the midst of renovating the space at 5 Elm Street, right next to French and Brawn. The storefront, which was most recently occupied by the boutique, Josephine’s, has been a clothing store for the last decade. Prior to that for more than 100 years, it was the J.C. Curtis Hardware store.
“It’s going to approximately double our space, but we won’t be doubling our seating,” said Sondra. “Instead, it gives us a more flexible space. We’ll have bar seating, a cozy corner with a sofa and a place to lounge, as well as clusters of tables and chairs. Say you’re meeting an old friend, or having a romantic date, if you're having a business meeting with a colleague, or you just want to come in with your laptop and a coffee and sit by yourself— there will be different areas to accommodate those needs.”
As business owners, the Hamiltons are hoping the new shop sets the tone for a new revival of downtown Camden, which has seen an extraordinary number of shops and restaurants close due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some areas in the new space will have brick walls and the shop comes with a 12-foot ceiling. More wall space will allow Zoot to continue to highlight exhibitions of local artwork and photographers, as they have continued to do throughout the pandemic.
“Art has always been important to our space and that’s something we’ll continue to support,” said Sondra.
As far as the food, she said: “We’re going to be very focused on coffee and espresso—that’s always been the hallmark of our business. We’ve always had quiche and soup and we’ll expand that a little bit. I just bought a vintage Scottish pie crust maker from my friend, Andrew Stewart, [former co-owner of The Drouthy Bear] and apparently, these are extremely rare to find in the U.S. So, we’ll be making more sweet and savory hand pies, such as hand-held Shepherd’s pies and mac and cheese pies. The focus is going to be on healthy, simple eating. Many of our items are going to be vegan and gluten-free–as my customers really like those options.”
Sondra said the original Zoot’s aesthetic of being community-minded is here to stay.
“When people come in, everyone feels welcome, like they’re right at home, and we strive to give everybody that feeling,” she said. “We want people to feel that they belong because we’re all good friends here.”
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org