When Kai Talim, Sawyer Beckley, and Chaereen Pak launched Persimmon Coffee in December 2020, roasting and selling one type of coffee a month, Pak says the global pandemic made starting a business feel like “an impossible and meaningless endeavor.” But in a time of great instability, the coffee company — where Pak, Talim, and Beckley would send coffee they’d roasted in small batches to customers around the city — actually helped. “We were able to care for our friends on the medical front lines, participate in peaceful protests in Philadelphia, and check up on the elderly in our community,” Pak says.
Fast forward one-and-a-half years later and the team behind Persimmon Coffee is opening a brick-and-mortar location at 11 W. Girard Avenue in Fishtown this July, right next door to Weckerly’s Ice Cream. Though Pak, Beckley, and Talim all met while working at Function Coffee Labs, the trio says that it feels surreal seeing their coffee passion project turn into a full-time endeavor.
Persimmon began as a monthly coffee release that evolved to include a subscription service called Friday Coffee Club. In early 2021, still deep in the pandemic, the trio had intentions to continue only as an online business, but they credit Lee Sawa-Frank at design shop-meets-hair-salon This Corner for first encouraging them to do in-person pop-ups. Thanks to Lee and many small business owners in Philadelphia, Persimmon was able to slowly and steadily grow business through regular pop-ups at other businesses. Talim says, “For us, it was a way to spread the word, get the chance to meet customers face-to-face, and experiment with coffee service. For the storefronts, it was a way to attract more foot traffic, foster new partnerships, and also experiment in ways that they might not have been able to by themselves.”
Through the pop-ups, Talim, Beckley, and Pak developed a close friendship with Andy Satinsky, co-owner of Weckerly’s Ice Cream, and Jeanne Chang, owner of Lil Pop Shop. Both business owners generously allowed Persimmon to host daily pop-ups in the mornings before their shops opened. So when Satinsky learned that the space next door to his ice cream shop had become vacant, he immediately let the team at Persimmon know and encouraged them to consider opening a shop there before the landlord put it on the market. The team says that a brick-and-mortar has always been the end goal, but didn’t expect that it would happen so soon.
“We were originally considering Rittenhouse Square, Bella Vista, or West Philly but we couldn’t find a space that worked,” Talim says. But when the team saw the Girard Avenue spot, they knew it was the one. “When we first walked into this space, we were immediately like ‘Oh this is it!’ We wanted a small space with lots of natural light and this was perfect.” Talim, previously a professional pianist, is responsible for the operational and financial side of the business. Pak, who works full-time as the creative manager at a healthcare retail start-up, handles all things creative for Persimmon, including digital and physical design and marketing. Beckley, director of coffee, brings the most experience and knowledge of coffee to the mix, having worked for years as both a barista and roaster in the Philadelphia area. Talim says that Beckley’s expertise has been “crucial for our ability to offer the absolutely delicious quality coffees that he’s been able to source and roast.”
At the shop, the coffee menu will feature a selection of espresso-based drinks, drip options, and one seasonal signature drink. The shop will open with the return of Persimmon’s summer drink, the Cloud Dancer, made with espresso, tonic water, ginger beer, blueberry preserves, heavy cream, and a sprig of mint over ice.
“Our goal is to stay true to our roots and keep our menu straightforward and simple,” Beckley says. A limited selection of teas from Hibiki-an and Rishi will also be available. Persimmon will offer baked goods from pastry chef Sofiane Bellal of Bloomsday Cafe, who is known for his exquisite laminated pastries. Persimmon Coffee also plans to continue collaborating with other small businesses in Philadelphia, with ceramics from Domenic Frunzi Ceramics, plants from STUMP, and further in the future, joint menu offerings with Weckerly’s Ice Cream and Lil Pop Shop.
The 350-square-foot space — with custom woodwork by Leeward Furniture — was designed by co-founder Chaereen Pak. Pak says that she was specifically inspired by coffee shops that she’s visited in Seoul, Korea and Tokyo, Japan that utilize lots of natural light and minimal materials to create beautiful atmospheres in tight spaces.
“We hope for Persimmon to be a space that is warm and welcoming, a brand that is beautiful and inspirational, a business that has strength and growth, and a community that is kind and united by love for coffee,” Pak says. “We’re going to do our very best to make our community proud and to leave a positive mark on our city.”
Persimmon Coffee is located at 11 W. Girard Avenue. It is set to open in the beginning of July 2022. Website.