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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Illycaffè is on its way to CW this fall — here’s what will make it unique

Illycaffè will be coming to a section of the former Binns of Williamsburg building in Colonial Williamsburg this fall. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Illycaffè will be coming to a section of the former Binns of Williamsburg building in Colonial Williamsburg this fall. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

It’s official.

The papers for Illycaffè have been signed to open a new franchise location in Merchants Square.

The coffee shop and cafe, brought in by Blue Talon’s co-owner Adam Steely, will serve coffee — of course — grab-and-go breakfast, light lunch fare such as cheese plates and fruit, and wine from its new 2,000-square-foot location next to Talbots along Duke of Gloucester Street.

But here’s what will make the cafe truly unique in Williamsburg: A dessert-only menu in the evening.

Steely’s wife, Dyana, is the owner of Extraordinary Cupcakes. She is working to develop the cafe’s dessert-only menu with European-style pastries — a slight departure from the “rustic Americana” style of baked goods at her business now.

The desserts will follow the European way and be served in smaller portions and have more “attention to detail,” Steely said. 

Between the light, casual menu and dessert-only menu at night, Steely is confident the new cafe will attract everyone, from college students, to tourists, to after-dinner Williamsburg locals.

“It will be a change of pace from what we’re used to in Merchants Square,” Steely said.

If all goes according to plan with renovations in the building, Steely hopes to open in late October or early November.

Getting Illy to Williamsburg

Steely said Illycaffè has been in the works for about two years

Illycaffè will be coming to a section of the former Binns of Williamsburg building in Colonial Williamsburg this fall. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)
Illycaffè will be coming to a section of the former Binns of Williamsburg building in Colonial Williamsburg this fall. (WYDaily/Sarah Fearing)

. The process of getting Illycaffè implanted in Williamsburg started after Illy announced it was aiming to expand its branded shops nationally in the United States.

Steely said the Blue Talon and his wife’s business have always served Illy products — dating back to 1988 — because of the brand’s “commitment to quality.”

Getting Illy to Williamsburg was an extensive process, Steely said.

Illy and Steely embarked on a two-sided “interview” process about two years ago to see if Illycaffè and Williamsburg fit together. That process involved Steely traveling to San Francisco to see Illycaffè there, as well as Illy officials coming to Williamsburg to see if they could envision a franchise in the area.

“The Illy executives came to Williamsburg and they loved what they saw,” Steely said. “On paper, it’s a small place.”

Many Illycaffès are in larger cities, not cities with fewer than 15,000 people such as Williamsburg, but Steely said the city’s “world class university” and location between two major metropolitan areas — Richmond and Virginia Beach — helped sell the idea of Illy here.

Steely added the Illy officials also ate at Blue Talon to get an idea of Steely’s business and menu.

What’s special about the Williamsburg location? It is one of the only Illycaffè shops in the country serving alcohol on its menu.

The menu is still in the works, and will require a stamp of approval from Illy before the business opens, Steely said.

“What’s really exciting for us is that this is another step in allowing Merchants Square to be the focal point and integrate college students, locals, tourists and the [Colonial Williamsburg] Foundation,” Steely said. “This is just another business that’ll facilitate mingling in a way that’s positive.”

Making it fit

Steely said he and his wife have accumulated the money to do renovations inside their building, 435 Duke of Gloucester St., and are now working with architects from both their privately-chosen firm and Illycaffè to transform the space.

The space is part of the former Binns of Williamsburg store, which announced in July 2018 it would leave for a space in the WindsorMeade Marketplace in James City County. As-is, the storefront has a more contemporary style, which doesn’t mesh with Steely and Illycaffè’s vision.

Steely said Illycaffè has a particular European style, featuring styles such as exposed brick, which he aims to blend with the style of Colonial Williamsburg.

Unlike some more modern Illycaffè franchises in big cities like Denver or San Francisco, Steely is aiming for a “comfortable space” that would attract everyone and anyone: college students, Colonial Williamsburg tourists and locals.

Illycaffè will take up about 2,000 square feet of the Binns space. The other 13,000 square feet will be occupied by a “new retail concept,” but that tenant has not yet been announced by Colonial Williamsburg.

The inside will be able to hold about 60 people, while there may be another three- to four-dozen seats outside.

When that tenant does become public, Steely plans to pitch an idea to them.

Steely wants to keep an opening between Illycaffè and the adjacent 13,000-square-foot space and install a glass door that would allow customers to move between the stores.

He also wants to install some plate glass windows between the spaces so retail customers can see into the cafe and vice-versa.

The permitting and licensure process is underway as well. 

Illycaffè will need sign and storefront design approval by the Architectural Review Board, as well as building permits from the city Planning Department. 

It will also need the health department to sign off and a business license through the city.

Steely anticipates all of those items to start getting underway in the next few weeks.

Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing
Sarah Fearing is the Assistant Editor at WYDaily. Sarah was born in the state of Maine, grew up along the coast, and attended college at the University of Maine at Orono. Sarah left Maine in October 2015 when she was offered a job at a newspaper in West Point, Va. Courts, crime, public safety and civil rights are among Sarah’s favorite topics to cover. She currently covers those topics in Williamsburg, James City County and York County. Sarah has been recognized by other news organizations, state agencies and civic groups for her coverage of a failing fire-rescue system, an aging agriculture industry and lack of oversight in horse rescue groups. In her free time, Sarah enjoys lazing around with her two cats, Salazar and Ruth, drinking copious amounts of coffee and driving places in her white truck.

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