Partners Chris Riffle and Timothy Atticus are brewing up business in Morris, where they launched the Gatehouse, a coffee shop-cafe at 129 Main St.
The pair moved from New York City to Gilbertsville in June 2020, when things began percolating.
“I managed a coffee shop in New York City in the East Village for about a decade,” Riffle said. “It was called The Bean and they had multiple locations. I’d worked at a couple and was there to help them open a location from the beginning, so I had a lot of experience. I love being at coffee shops, and I’m also a musician, so it’s always been the perfect job for me to be able to work and make some money during the day, interact with the community, get to know people, then go play gigs in the evening.”
Atticus, Riffle said, worked for more than 10 years as national sales manager of women-owned, Atlanta-based gourmet food sellers, Bella Cucina.
“He had done a lot of work with that company, selling products to places like Dean & DeLuca and Crate & Barrel and mom-and-pop specialty food stores around the country,” Riffle said. “A big part of that was going to trade shows, so he has a ton of experience in that world. Since we’ve moved up here, we’ve seen these beautiful buildings and spaces and gotten to know these great communities and gotten the feeling that people wanted something; they want a cool shop they can come into.”
The Gatehouse opened in September, after the couple secured the building on Aug. 15. Riffle said they spent the intervening weeks refining their vision.
“We saw this space in Morris at the beginning of the summer … and thought, ‘Wow, this could be pretty amazing,’” he said. “We didn’t know a whole lot about Morris, even though we’re only eight minutes from it … but we came and saw it and this building is gorgeous. Right away, we were like, ‘this feels like the size of a space that could have tables for a cafe and a full retail shop and we could do both of our dreams and really combine them in a way to have special products that are local, or things we’ve found at trade shows that we think are quality products people will enjoy.
“We went on this road trip to Seattle and stopped at coffee shops in every town that we could,” Riffle, a Seattle native, said. “We took notes, talked to baristas, took pictures and tried to pay attention to the little details and notice what we really liked. That was really informative.”
The result, Riffle and Atticus said, is a curated collection of food and drink options, home goods, art and more.
“We’re trying to feature, as much as we can, local artisans,” Atticus said. “We have a whole area of body care and wellness products, from candles made in small batches in holiday scents to great soaps called AromatheraChi. We have sassy body-care products from Badgerface (Beauty Supply) and that’s been doing really well, and a medicinal, holistic line by Catskill Botanicals.
“We do a lot of work on consignment with local artisans,” he continued, mentioning handcrafted, Finnish-inspired cheeseboards; high-end and “everyday” locally made jewelry; “French country aesthetic” tea towels handmade in Cooperstown; custom greeting cards; and Elizabeth Nields pottery.
“And on the cafe end of it … it’s been a lot of fun for me to really do exactly what I would want if I went into a cafe,” Riffle said. “I got to pick the kind of oat milk I want, or we’re getting all our dairy from Clark Dairy Farm, and our coffee and beans are from Wakeman in Sidney. We’re doing things like turmeric lattes, which I was very familiar with, but wasn’t seeing in many places up here, so it’s fun to bring some of those things to (customers). The teas are Flying Saucer Teas, also out of Sidney, by Alyssa Hardy, and she does this amazing Earl Grey called Lady Grey that’s really special. It’s just so fun finding things that we love.”
Atticus added that The Gatehouse carries The Chai Box, “an amazing line of chai … just in Forbes and on Oprah’s favorite things,” crafted in the South by a woman from India and available for purchase “as a concentrate or to be served.”
Riffle said he and Atticus are enjoying a full-bodied reception.
“I’ve always enjoyed coffee, and I really enjoy the community aspect of it,” Riffle said. “I just really love getting to be right there in a shop, getting to see people run into people they haven’t seen in a while, or seeing families connecting. It’s been pretty amazing for the past month being here in Morris, because there isn’t anything here like this. Both of us have been really touched to see the amount of amazing, wonderful people now having a place to stop in and catch up with their neighbors. It’s typical coffee shop stuff, but I think it’s so special, because there wasn’t something here.
“All of our fears about being accepted or welcomed into the community have been completely unwarranted,” he continued. “It’s every kind of person or demographic — local or passing through; we get them all. Word has gotten out, which is so great and fun to see. So, the response has been great. I really wanted to keep the price point affordable and something that would work for everybody, and I think we’ve done a good job of that. It’s pretty amazing who you meet in a coffee shop, and I knew that in some ways from New York City, but I’m always amazed at the connections you can make on a daily basis in a coffee shop, and even more so in a small community.”
Riffle said they hope to grow their inventory as well as presence.
“We definitely enjoy bringing in new products,” he said. “Right now, it’s just Tim and I here … but I could easily see expanding the hours, being open more days and hiring somebody. We’re moving toward that sooner than we thought, because people are showing up and really want a place to go. We would love to have concerts … and do events.”
For the holidays, Atticus said, they will also prepare custom gift baskets using in-house goods.
A grand-opening event is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, with most vendors on hand.
For more information, find “The Gatehouse” on Facebook.
The Gatehouse is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday, Thursday and Friday; 8 to 4, Saturday and Sunday; and closed Tuesday and Wednesday.