Detroit native Melanie Diamond-Manlusoc is quickly picking up the local lingo in Philly. The Le Cordon Bleu-trained pasty chef moved to Kensington six months ago to open coffee/gelato shop Flow State and she already knows what customers will be requesting on that gelato.
“We’ll have the coffee, gelato, cookies and scones, some more substantial things like panini and focaccia, and desserts like a gelato cookie sandwich with sprink— with jimmies,” Diamond-Manlusoc says. “You call them jimmies. I’m learning.”
Diamond-Manlusoc spent the last decade-plus in Chicago, where her wife, Liz Diamond-Manlusoc, is from — though the move stemmed less from Liz’s desire to return home than Melanie’s craving for a change: “I just wanted to get the fuck out of Michigan,” she says.
In Chicago they met Philly native Maggie Lee. The couple, at the time music teachers who played in an indie band, were hanging out with a bandmate during Pride Weekend when the bandmate spotted Lee and wanted to ask her out. (“They broke up but we got to keep Maggie,” Melanie says.) When Lee later moved back to Philly, the Diamond-Manlusocs came to visit and immediately felt right at home.
“Philly is like Detroit and Chicago’s love child,” Melanie says. “Detroiters have this attitude of ‘shove me down and I’m going to keep getting back up again.’ It’s very close to this East Coast grit thing you guys have going on. Philadelphians have that Detroit hustle.”
As for the Chicago lineage, it’s “very neighborhood-y, very proud of its neighborhoods, which each have a distinct style,” she says. “You have the same thing here in Philly, but smaller.”
But Chicagoans can be standoffish, especially in the coffee community, she adds, while in Philly, “people are so nice here.”
The Diamond-Manlusocs decided Philadelphia was the place to be and started looking for a house and a commercial space where they could open a coffee shop with Lee. That coffee shop now has an address (2413 Frankford Avenue), a name (Flow State), and a game plan that goes way beyond a coffee bar.
On street level, Flow State will serve light café fare and Melanie’s small-batch gelato, which she perfected in the kitchens of Michelin-starred Chicago restaurants. Downstairs, it will be a co-working space. At night the co-working space will turn into a bar.
The coffee shop/gelateria will open first, ahead of the co-working space/nightlife jawn. They want to get into the flow of Flow State before tackling phase two.
“Later we’ll expand our hours and add the dedicated co-working space and we’ll have more of a nightlife thing, with beer and skee-ball and fried things to eat, because that’s what we like with our beer. But that’s something to grow into,” Melanie says. “First we need time to figure out the rhythm — make it a place where customers want to hang out.”
They’re shooting for an early fall opening for the coffee shop.