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Columbia Heights Coffee Closes on 11th Street

by Prince Of Petworth October 16, 2013 at 10:30 am 56 Comments

3416 11th Street, NW

Dear PoPville,

Did you hear that Columbia Heights Coffee is closing? They are packing up right now.

One of the sadder emails I’ve received in a while. Some may call it nostalgia but for those of us who lived nearby – the opening of Columbia Heights Coffee was a joy that is hard to articulate. You see Columbia Heights Coffee was the “first” new spot to open on 11th street. I remember the first time I passed it back in 2003/2004 I thought I was hallucinating. It is really hard to imagine but the entire street was pretty much boarded up, vacant and/or in disrepair. Columbia Heights Coffee was the first shining light.

Here’s what is now Maple looked like next door:


And the Coupe across the street:


“Holy shit, I can walk from my house and get a cup of coffee.” I really couldn’t believe it the first time I saw Columbia Heights Coffee. Of course they were not infallible. The place did change ownership a number of years ago. Fortunately the new owners were among the kindest most hard working people I’ve ever met. Was service sometimes slow? Yes. Did I receive a smile and a kind word every single time I stopped in? Absolutely. Soon Wonderland opened. Then Red Rocks. And you know the strip now. It is the “hip strip”. It is awesome. And it wouldn’t be if Columbia Heights Coffee didn’t kick things off. The space and business was an integral part of the community. Call it nostalgia if you wish but for me and many others – Columbia Heights Coffee will be deeply missed for many reasons.


A reader’s daughter gives a hug and a card to one of the owners as they close up shop last night:


In happier times back in May 2007:


  • Matt

    This is super sad news. I always liked that place and the coffee was good. At the same time, I don’t know anyone that lives in the neighborhood that has much of anything positive to say about the Coupe.

    Correction to the letter: ” Soon Wonderland opened. Then Red Rocks.” Umm, Wonderland had been open for a few years before the coffee shop…

    • Just confirmed with Rose from Wonderland – Columbia Heights Coffee opened a year before Wonderland.

      • Anonymous

        Yep, I’m pretty sure Wonderland opened in 2005.

        • Wonderland opened in August 2004 – just celebrated their 9 year anniversary this summer!

          • Anonymous

            Hard to believe it’s been so long! It seems like just yesterday, Columbia Heights was a wasteland of vacant lots and boarded-up buildings.

      • Matt

        Huh… I didn’t know CHC had been opened that long. Thanks for clarifying. “The More You Know…”

  • NoLongerNew2CH

    Sad news, indeed. The writing was on the wall when The Coupe opened, unfortunately. Super nice people, and CH Coffee definitely was part of the appeal that initially attracted me to 11th Street (for the record, I lived there from early 2006 through the end of 2012, but have since moved). You could see what 11th Street would eventually become, and it was for many years a pleasant oasis in a sea of boarded up buildings, until the rest of the strip slowly filled in. Sorry to see them leave the neighborhood, and I do hope that something with a similar vibe / truly local spirit opens in that space.

  • jacob

    Sad news! They had great coffee. So much better than the fancier places that have sprung up around them.

    Also they were so nice and unpretentious and always had classical WETA playing.


  • Anonymous

    The timing seems to coincide with the expiration of a 10 year commercial lease. My guess is that they were due for big rent hike and they couldn’t afford it, due to increased competition in the ‘hood.

  • Joseph

    “Umm, Wonderland had been open for a few years before the coffee shop…”

    The original writer is correct, Columbia Heights Coffee was the first new business to open in Columbia Heights and 11th Street, and it was well before Wonderland. All great locally owned businesses.

  • April

    I’m only slightly exaggerating when I say that my heart breaks to see this news. I was very worried about them when the Coupe opened, and then Room 11’s Paisley Fig. But I always thought they had enough of a loyal customer base to pull them through — in addition to such warm, friendly service, decent coffee, and fair pricing. I have to admit though, I did frequent the spot less often once other options were available. I almost feel personally responsible.

    I love all of the aspects of what makes 11th Street “the hip strip,” but this feels like the ultimate sign that some of the heart is going out of it with the rapid changes.

  • Anonymous

    Bummer, especially cause Coupe is not really a coffee shop. All the best to Co Heights owners!

  • stacy

    sad!!! the couple who worked there are the nicest people ever and the coffee was delicious! My favorite place to go for sunday coffee and bagel :(

  • Ryan in Petworth

    The sentiments PoP expressed in the post are right on… CHC were the pioneers of the 11th Street corridor, and my wife and I have a lot of great memories of the place. It served as a sort of oasis for us for several years and was our family walk destination most weekend mornings. The people who worked there are first class.

    If you’re looking for a new location, come on up into Petworth… we’ll welcome you with open arms! :-)

    • +1
      Yes, hope they come to Petworth!

  • KenyonDweller

    I’m sorry to see a longtime business go–but, in my opinion the coffee was not great. The Coupe has lots of problems, but their coffee is much better than CH Coffee’s.

  • Park View Pirate

    Really bummed that it is a casualty of rent hikes. Very nice people and although I didn’t frequent it often, it will be missed. Places like this define a neighborhood and sad to see it go!

  • Pworth

    Very sad to see them go – I hope they find a new venue nearby.

    DC neighborhoods have a limited lifetime between “dive” and “overpriced chic” – probably about five years. I suspect 11th St. will be crossing that divide shortly…

  • Mandy

    Such sad news. This closing is a loss for the Columbia Heights neighborhood: good coffee, a comfy space, and hardworking staff. Please, please let us know if the owners open something elsewhere.

  • hma

    Unbelievably sad news.

  • Anonymous

    Pour out a latte for my homies. (Single, highly-caffeinated tear rolls down cheek.)

  • Anonymous

    14th above Buchanan will always welcome you if you’re interested.

    • gotryit

      Highlands brews some decent coffe from ME Swings

  • 20010

    Hopefully the new coffee shop that is opening in the former Tibet Shop space at Georgia/Lamont will fill some of this need. Until then, there’s always the fantastic Harrar and Sankofa farther south.

    • pleasant plains

      you mean the space on keefer? the tibet shop that opened recently? curious for the details!

  • David

    Oh this is really sad news. It was a great little coffee shop, with kind, generous owners. I’m really going to miss it.

  • Former CH’er

    Lived on NH Ave from 2002-2012. In the way back, only Dominoes delivered, and you had to meet them on the curb with your cash. CH Coffee’s opening reassured us that we had bought a house in the right place at the right time. I remember the weekend it opened and I still drink coffee at work from the mug I bought from them during their first month. Took my kids there when mom needed a break They pioneered 11th street, long before anything else was around there. Although we no longer live in the neighborhood, this story makes me sad.

    • saf

      Huh. When we moved in, the only place that would deliver here was the vile Pizza Hut at Georgia and Kansas. Must be a bit north of you.

  • Anonymous

    Sad to see this hard working couple shutting their doors. I hope they have the next thing lined up. I first met them at their old coffee shop in the Woodward building and they were as warm and friendly there as they were in CH.

    That said, I feel this demise was a long time coming, and also preventable. The coffee game in DC has improved (thank god) by leaps and bounds, and they weren’t hitting the mark. The space needs a facelift, the food needed help, and, of all things, the coffee wasn’t cutting it anymore.

  • saf

    The Prince has it right – we’ve been here a long time too, and I remember how exciting it was when something good opened that we could walk to easily. I’ve been in there a few times a week ever since.

    I love the coffee, I love the owners. I don’t know what I will do for coffee now that they are gone. I’ve met so many lovely people there, and it’s been a great place to meet folks, buy a bag of coffee beans to take home, drink my latte while I read my paper…

    • off you go

      to Qualia!

      • saf

        Qualia is actually quite a bit closer to me, although not on my route to the farm market on Saturday morning. However, I have never felt welcome there.

        Not only am I older than most of the folks who go there, all I really want is a double shot 2% latte. This doesn’t seem to be what they want to sell me.

        Now, I would be willing to try again, but before I do, I wanted to look at the menu. It’s not on their website. It’s not on their facebook.

        So, before I walk in there and get sneered at again – anyone who’s been in there recently know if what I want exists?

        • dcloafer

          Not sure what you mean. Of course it exists. Their standard lattes are double-shots (as are just about every single latte around: It’s apparently difficult to properly pull a single off most machines). They have 2% milk (which is delicious, and also grassfed and organic), and that’s what I get on my lattes. They make them properly, too: As in, 8oz total, a hearty proportion of which is espresso.

          Although I’m an espresso hound and usually end up with a latte, I do think the coffee is where Qualia shines. Their espresso is single-origin, which I think sometimes results in a one- or two-dimensional espresso, even if the exact same bean makes a fantastic cup of coffee.

          • saf

            Ah, and there we go. I prefer mine to be larger – 12-14 oz range. I like more milk. And I hope I’m just reading into this posting, but if not, this is a great example of what I mean.
            “Not sure what you mean. Of course it exists” “They make them properly, too: As in, 8oz total…”
            See, that may be what you, and Joel, think of as “proper.” But it’s not what I want, and so I should probably go elsewhere.

        • gotryit

          Ever try Harrar? Good coffee and nice people. I’ve never felt anything in the realm of pretentiousness from them.

          • saf

            They are lovely people, and they make very nice coffee. That is an option for some things.
            But it is not on my way to weekend errand running, and they don’t have much space for sitting and reading the paper. Also not as easily walkable from my house.
            So I will go to Harrar when I am in the car, or headed south.

          • I love Harrar so much, and they are unbelievably nice and cheerful there.

    • coffeeeeee!

      I suggest Room 11. Open at 8am serving locally roasted coffee and the best pastries in town. No WiFi though….Qualia is great too and worth the extra walk and they have Wifi

      • dcloafer

        Room 11 now has an attached coffee shop under its long-standing bakery name, Paisley Fig. Open earlier. Amazing coffee, lattes, and pastries, with a great atmosphere.

        • dcloafer

          durr, you said 8 AM. So my post is pretty much: “+1”

      • saf

        OK, that might work too. A bit off the route to the farm market, but not as far off as Qualia.

  • Anonymous

    I’m very sad to see this business close. I frequented it many Saturday & Sunday mornings while dating my boyfriend who lived a couple blocks away. I loved their coffee and apple fritters!

  • Back In the Day

    I used to drive past just to enjoy seeing it was open

  • Rachel

    Best chai tea latte & sweetest owners in Columbia Heights, hands down. So sad to see it go.

  • ihaveafever

    Maple has been wanting them to move out for a LONG time. Now they can get the space and expand.

    • Titay

      yep, i heard them talking about taking over the coffee shop before they even opened…

  • KareeLyn

    Absolutely devastating news. Was definitely worried about their longevity when things in the area started getting so expensive. Does anyone know what is happening to the space? Is Maple taking it over or is it going on the market?

  • Ted

    For all the (admittedly few) haters out there:

    In my book, this shop had the best coffee in the neighborhood. Both hot and iced coffee were consistently good and the ambiance was really pleasant. There is nothing else like it and after hearing this news I feel like abandoning this neighborhood to the encroaching yupster scum who don’t know a good thing when it is right under their goatees. I’ve lost count of all the bad cups of coffee that I’ve had to spill out at other establishments. If you are not ordering a 5 dollar pour-over or espresso drink at most places these days don’t give a s**t about you.

    • Stavros

      Oof, seems like the biggest hater here is: you.

      • Anonymous

        Actually, perhaps I’m the biggest hater. All of these positive comments confuse me. All of my experiences there were terrible. They were always super slow. And once, the lady literally called me a liar after I rather politely told her that I had ordered an iced coffee, and not the hot coffee she gave me (after a 15 minute wait). I’ve been waiting for this day since the Coupe opened. Good riddance.

  • Anonymous

    So sad I was a regular. So much better than the alternatives on 11th Street. I like the Coupe for many things but watching the staff fumble a simple order of a to go coffee as they usually do is not one of them.

  • monkeydaddy

    My wife and I used to stroll here with the new baby and the old dog every weekend morning, in need of coffee after staying up with the little one. It was the one of the first urban nice things to pop up in walking distance, a welcome compensation for some of the urban bad things that were worse then. We don’t have the dog anymore, and the baby is a strapping young lad. But thanks to Columbia Heights Coffee and its wonderful owners for making that period even more pleasant.

  • Mark

    When we moved into the neighborhood in 2007 it was just them and red rocks. Used to pad over for coffees every Saturday & Sunday. They’re very nice. Wish they’d been able to roast their own beans; something they were talking about years before anyone else in the area. Best of luck in future endeavors.

  • A6909746

    Bummer does anyone know where they used to get those apple fritters? My husband loved them

    • DSB

      Lyon Bakery

  • Scott

    This is very sad indeed. They were wonderful people and ran a great coffee shop. The loss of their owner run business leaves a void our neighborhood that will not be filled by the likes of the Coupe. I wish them Tsege and her family the best. We will miss you!!


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