Chris Vigilante, founder and owner of Vigilante Coffee Company, served customers at his College Park storefront location Wednesday for its soft opening.
The grand opening is planned for March 26. The coffee shop has been planning to open at 8200 Baltimore Avenue, between The View and The Varsity apartment buildings, for more than a year. Bringing the building up to code took much more time and money than expected, Vigilante said. The shop is replacing #1 Liquors.
"It's here now," Vigilante said. "Better late than never is what I say."
[Read more: Vigilante Coffee will replace #1 Liquors on Route 1]
The cafe, which had its final building inspection on Monday, operated with limited hours and a condensed menu. Vigilante said the shop could look different in a year as they continue to improve the location.
Vigilante said the building used to be a "cement block" and they had to work to give the space a warmer atmosphere. Vigilante Coffee Chief Operating Officer Ashley Bodine said they painted the ceiling blue and added natural light and plants to help give it a more open feel.
Customers at the soft opening said they enjoyed the shop's appearance.
"I like the aesthetic," Silver Spring resident Rashid Mahdi said. "There's a very therapeutic feel in here."
Mahdi said he'd previously been to Vigilante's other location in Hyattsville, and he passes the College Park location on the way to work, so he'll probably come back. University of Maryland senior English major Elliot Frankalso said he would return if there were enough room to do homework.
"It seems like it's pretty busy already — I'm wondering when more people hear about it how busy it would be," Frank said.
The College Park location is smaller than the company's Hyattsville storefront, which opened in 2014 and roasts its own coffee beans on site. Vigilante said the new shop is more focused on speed, and has two espresso machines compared to Hyattsville's one.
"No one wants to go somewhere and wait 15 to 20 minutes for a coffee," Bodine said.
Vigilante Coffee will also sell acai bowls, bagels, empanadas, snacks and skateboards. There isn't a skateboard shop in the area, so the company is filling that void, Vigilante said.
The construction to make the space a coffee shop came with an unexpected $20,000 bill, Vigilante said, which delayed the store's opening. The structure originally had two water mains coming into the building, Vigilante said, but the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission wanted to make it only one.
"This building was built in the 1950s," Bodine said, "and the rules and regulations of the '50s are very different from what they are now, as far as building codes."
This university's chief strategy officer, Ken Ulman, said the College Park Vigilante Coffee's opening will help make the city's midtown area more vibrant.
"Great college towns have great coffee shops," Ulman said. "Adding in a local coffee shop into our ecosystem was a real priority for us."
Vigilante said he expects university students to come by, as well as anyone who wants a good cup of coffee.
"Just focus on making people happy, serving good coffee," Vigilante said. "That's it, that's the mantra."