A coffee shop at the heart of Aggieville brings a new study space to Manhattan

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Kat Hurd enjoys a cup of tea at the new coffee shop in Aggieville, "Public Hall." (Kate Torline | Collegian Media Group)

A new coffee shop in the heart of Aggieville opened on Sept. 12. While many who come to town for events such as football games are surprised by the new spot, many Manhattan residents have already made Public Hall part of their routine.

“I love the environment and I like the fact that we’ve only been open for seven weeks and we already have regulars where I know their name and I know their drink,” Devon O’Malley, manager, said. “I love that the community feels that we’re creating here and the fact that we’re not just creating it with customers, but we’re actually creating it with our staff.”

Public Hall, located on Moro Street, is part of an organization called Acme Global Industries Inc., which owns many small businesses in Manhattan, including Varsity Donuts and the yoga studio next door to Public Hall, Orange Sky.

“[We wanted] to be a buddy to the yoga studio, to give people a hangout because so much of that space was actually taken up by the studios, there wasn’t a lot of room for the community that came out of yoga classes to actually hang out,” Acme partner Taylor Carr, said. “This doubled as a space for them, but the name ‘public’ is so important because we wanted to make sure people knew it wasn’t just for the yoga studio, but that it was for everybody.”

When coming up with the concept and design for the business, the owners took inspiration from coffee shops around their favorite cities to vacation, including San Francisco, California, Portland, Oregon and New York, New York.

“We took our favorite things from these places we had seen, and just figured out how to bring them together in one concept,” Carr said. “We want to feel like we’re on vacation all the time.”

O’Malley, who is from California, enjoys this aspect of the coffee shop.

“I love the feel of this and I love the fact that it makes me feel a little bit of home here because it’s just something that you don’t get very often,” O’Malley said.

The owners said they want Public Hall to be a place where someone can come right after their yoga class, sit down with a cup of coffee and do some work, relax at the bar when they’re done and then go out on the patio with friends. It is set up with spaces for quiet studying, large hang out spots and two-person tables.

Public Hall is now a regular study spot for K-State students. Molly McNeill, sophomore in interior design, said she likes to go there to do homework and get coffee with her friends.

“I like the environment,” McNeill said. “I’m from Kansas City and it reminds me of my hometown. I think it’s more open and there’s a lot more space. I like the open windows and the event [space] back there with the ping-pong tables.”

In a town filled with many well-known coffee shops, Carr simply wants Public Hall to be another unique spot people can go and not be a competitor with the others.

“We’re just really proud to be a part of that community,” Carr said. “We really wanted to build up the entire coffee community of Manhattan, because there’s some really loved coffee shops and we do not in any way want to take from them, but we want people to think of Manhattan as this place that has all these amazing coffee shops.”

Pubic Hall serves coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee, a coffee roasting company and retailer based in Chicago, Illinois. Carr said they wanted to use the brand because they respect the integrity of the company and wanted to bring the brand to Manhattan.

Since Intelligentsia is from the midwest, and somewhat local in that regard, it is hard to find. Intelligentsia even sent out a trainer from Los Angeles, California, to help the employees make the coffee in the very best way.

While the coffee shop has been open for more than a month, the inside is not completely laid out. In the back room, there is wall covered in sticky notes with ideas customers have had of what the shop can do next.

“We’re not totally done,” Carr said. “We have a ton of work to do, we have more tables to add, we want to hang a lot more art around [the back.]”

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I'm Pete Loganbill and I'm the News Editor for the Collegian and host of the Collegian Kultivate podcast! I spent two years at Johnson County Community College, and I am now a senior in Public Relations at K-State. I believe constant communication leads to progress, no matter how difficult a comment may be for me or anyone to hear. Contact me at ploganbill@kstatecollegian.com.