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Coffee shop moving out; another moving in

By Lee Howard

Publication: The Day

Published September 16. 2012 4:00AM

New London - Changes are brewing in the downtown coffee-shop scene.

Bean & Leaf, a popular downtown coffee bar, will be vacating its current space on Washington Street and moving to New London Harbour Towers on Bank Street around Oct. 1, when its lease is up. About the same time, the Washington Street Coffee House will replace Bean & Leaf, with plans to open by mid October.

The new owners of Washington Street Coffee House, 28-year-old Chris Sherman and 25-year-old girlfriend Misha Lebell of Noank, said that they plan to serve Rhode Island-based Dave's Coffee and want to expand the lunch offerings and number of tables at the 2,200-square-foot space.

Sherman said he plans to roast his own meats and offer a wide variety of sandwiches, along with soups and salads.

"We want to focus on food," Lebell said. "People are always looking for great lunch spots."

Both Sherman and Lebell previously worked at the Mystic Oyster Club, he running the oyster bar and she serving as pastry chef. Lebell plans to continue baking fresh pastries for her new restaurant.

"We want a pretty mellow atmosphere," Lebell said. "Slightly less of a hippyish look and more of an industrial look."

Bean & Leaf, which has been in its current space at 13 Washington St. for the past five years, was named this year by Connecticut Magazine as one of the best three coffee bars in the state. It was the fourth year the shop had won the honor.

But Bean & Leaf's co-owner, Melissa Cokas, has indicated in online postings that the business has not been profitable over the past few years, blaming the problem mostly on its location.

She had been trying to raise $25,000 through the crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com, but received only about $2,700 in contributions.

"This fund drive is necessitated by the desire to keep Bean & Leaf alive," she said in a posting four months ago. "Since the current location is untenable, we are faced with closure."

Phone calls to Cokas seeking additional comment were not immediately returned Friday, but an employee at Bean & Leaf confirmed a move is imminent.

As for whether New London can support another coffee shop downtown, Lebell said competition wouldn't be a problem.

"There are not that many coffee shops in New London," she said. "There's room for all of us."

l.howard@theday.com

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