Atalay and Nuckols doing their best shark.
Many small businesses in competitive industries will throw down to keep even their most basic recipes a secret from their competitors. Not Shark Mountain Coffee Company. In fact, part of what sets this new gourmet coffee shop and roastery apart from the crowd is its downright excitement to give away their secrets.
"We believe Charlottesville is on the brink of becoming a major hub of American coffee culture, rivaling those of D.C., Philadelphia, Durham/Chapel Hill, and even New York," says Jonny Nuckols, co-founder and co-owner of Shark Mountain. "One thing holding it back is the hyper-competitive, proprietary nature of already established shops."
And Nuckols would know. He's a former roastery manager at Shenandoah Joe, former manager of Para Coffee and former staffer at Milli Joe Coffee and Gelato. To bring Shark Mountain Coffee to life, he teamed up with former Para co-worker Kerem Atalay, a current UVA fourth year.
"While at Para, I realized that I wanted to try to start something communal, with shared ownership that allowed for individual creative license to be appreciated and encouraged," says Nuckols.
Located at 621 Nash Drive, between the Law School and Darden, and within Darden's entrepreneurial incubator, the iLab, Shark Mountain may not be the most easily accessible coffee shop, but Nuckols is quick to respond to this point: free parking! The cafe is also easily accessed from Barracks Road, Ivy Road, and from the 250 bypass.
Furthermore, Nuckols says, it will be worth your while to drive the extra miles. Shark Mountain, which will open on April 11 in conjunction with the opening of the iLab itself and Tom Tom's 10K pitch night, will offer sophisticated and classic café drinks done in artisanal fashion, rotating homemade sweet and savory foodstuffs like bacon cornbread, and their soy milk, nut milks, chai, and syrups will all be made in-house. They will even roast their own cocoa beans for a homemade chocolate sauce!
In the coming months, Nuckols and Atalay promise to use their generous space–featuring both indoor seating and an outside patio– for music events, movie screenings, poetry readings, latte art competitions, art shows, and more.
Nuckols and Atalay envision Shark Mountain as a quality coffee experience for their customers, but also a launching pad for events and organizations that will foster the growth of a vibrant local coffee community.
"We want both coffee professionals and enthusiastic customers to be equal parts of it," says Atalay. "We believe that the best way to create a community around something is to make access to the relevant resources as unrestricted and open as possible."
In concrete terms, Nuckols lays out a few ideas: "We will work towards forming collectives with other shops, feature other roasters' coffees, create a customer co-op with a democratic voice, and eventually a barista time-share in which baristas from other shops and other cities can literally run the shop for a day."
But can they do it all– homemade chocolate syrup and social innovation? Nuckols says yes.
"We want to make coffee a craft akin to wine and beer, and Charlottesville a destination coffee city."
Connect with Shark Mountain Coffee Company on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/SharkMountainCoffee