As owner Dale Donchey indicated last fall, a new location of Spiller Park Coffee will soon reside on Mitchell Street in downtown Atlanta. The coffee shop, slated to open by early 2023, is just the latest food and beverage business to join the redevelopment of historic Hotel Row by Newport Holding.
Donchey says he’s been planning this location since 2018, after first serving coffee to Newport Holding senior vice president April Stammel following the opening of Spiller Park in Toco Hills. A year later, Stammel presented Donchey with the downtown Atlanta opportunity.
He and his staff visited the site on several occasions, before doing their first pop there during the Super Bowl in 2019, when Atlanta hosted the big game at nearby Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Last summer, Donchey and his team returned to the Mitchell Street space with a pop-up coffee shop, serving the neighborhood and weekday workforce for several weeks. Occasionally, Donchey’s bagel pop-up, Dear Friend, Bagels, made appearances, too.
Many of the brick structures and old storefronts along Mitchell Street remain relatively unchanged since being built over a century ago.
“When I grew up and went to coffee shops or a deli or went to a diner or sandwich shop, wherever I went was just hundreds of years old and they made it their own,” the Richmond, Virginia, native says.
“There’s a romance to a city that allows you to walk and stumble into these little shotgun, small, intimate spaces that don’t necessarily provide you with a modern retail experience, but a very old school, very romantic, very intimate kind of environment,” he adds.
The Mitchell Street location is slightly refurbished, but basically remains as it was one hundred years ago. White, teal, and maroon penny tiles form geometric patterns and flowers on the floor. Tin tiles line the ceiling, which is pulled back to reveal slatted wood tops in some spaces. Fleur de lis and vine-like designs accentuate the molded metal on the walls. A plaque reading “Imperial Cafe” greets people walking through the front door.
“A theory is that it was owned by the fruit and vegetable company that was in that part of town, so it was their cafe,” Donchey says. “I think this place is going to be very Roaring 20s-ish. I’m trying to touch as little as possible because it has so much of its own character and feel.”
Donchey, who recently opened a third Spiller Park Coffee on Moores Mill in northwest Atlanta, says he doesn’t want to lose touch with the business at the expense of growth. But he feels the intimacy and historic charm of this fourth location is “a perfect number for it.”
History plays a key role in the business model for Spiller Park Coffee. The history behind the building is what initially attracted Donchey to the central food hall at Ponce City Market, the site of the first Spiller Park Coffee. The second location resides in the historic and predominantly Jewish neighborhood surrounding the Toco Hill shopping center built in the 1950’s on North Druid Hills Road. It’s said to be one of the first strip malls built in Atlanta. With Mitchell Street, Donchey hopes to preserve a space that’s virtually untouched.
But Spiller Park’s trademark baseball aesthetic will work its way into the design. “My entire design aesthetic is taking vintage baseball and modernizing it, and putting a coffee spin on it,” he says. “This will be an actual task in taking an old thing and trying to not make it modernized, but not make it feel dated.”
After moving to Atlanta over two decades ago, Donchey combined his childhood love of baseball with his love for coffee. Prior to Spiller Park, he opened Steady Hand Pour House with friends, eventually rebranding the logo for the shop into a baseball theme. Spiller Park itself is named for the ballpark in which both Atlanta’s first minor league baseball and Negro American League teams played during the early decades of the 20th century. It’s now home to Midtown Place shopping plaza, across the street from Ponce City Market.
“This space is our number four,” Donchey says. “It’s our home hitter, and I think that’s what this space symbolizes for me. I think it’s my all-in on my romantic idea of not only what Atlanta can be, but [also] what Spiller Park symbolizes in Atlanta.”
233 Mitchell Street, Atlanta. spillerpark.com.