Raising the Bar

Recluse Roasting Project wants to make coffee more engaging.



“For some weird reason, ever since I was 12, I wanted to open my own cafe,” says Aimee Biggerstaff, one of those people whose passion for her work is palpable.

She could wax poetic all day about crafting and drinking the perfect cup of coffee, and after more than 15 years in the industry, she’s well on her way to living out those plans she detailed in her middle school journal.

Along with business partners Russell Durfee and Jack Fleming, who’s also her romantic partner, Biggerstaff is in the process of building out the space for Recluse Coffee Bar and Roastery, a European-style coffee shop in Scott’s Addition. It won’t be the cozy, “Friends”-style venue with plush couches and communal coffee tables Biggerstaff envisioned in the ‘90s, but it will be something Richmond hasn’t seen before.

Called a coffee bar, Recluse will be exactly that — a bar, but with coffee. Guests will sidle up to the semi-circle-shaped counter and order the same way they would at a traditional bar. Baristas will interact directly with guests, much like bartenders, using multiple tablets to run cards instead of a stationary cash register. Seating will be minimal, with standing room only at the bar and a couple high tables next to the windows.

“We wanted to see if we could do something different, have things set up in a way where if it was a quick takeaway service it’ll be fast and out the door, but also offer someone a beautiful service for here,” Biggerstaff says. “You can stand at the bar and read the paper, or stand there and have a conversation with someone else who’s at the bar. We want to try to create a space that’s more about engagement.”

Biggerstaff says she and her partners were inspired by cafes they visited in their travels, and they’ve seen this approach work in cities all over the world.

“It’s this throwback, that simple idea of walking up to a bar and the bartender greets you, without this whole to-do of lining up,” she says. “We also know, having been in the industry for so long, that it’s hard to break customers of habits. We’ve been taught to line up, so it’s going to be on us and our experience to really confidently guide people through the space.”

The goal is for the bar, at 2904 W. Moore St., to open its doors in September. The owners are doing the hands-on work themselves — Biggerstaff learned to pour concrete a few hours before interviewing for this story — while still roasting and distributing coffee around town.

Bags of Recluse Roasting Project beans are available online and at local retailers such as the Butterbean Market and Cafe, Union Market and Outpost Richmond, and you can find brewed cups of coffee at Pomona Plants and Sugar and Twine. The team also sells beans, beverages and Recluse merchandise at the pop-up farmers market at the Veil Brewing Co. — they’ll be there every other Sunday from July 28 to September 22.

Recluse Roasting Project

1310 Altamont Ave.