In 2018, husband and wife Joe and Sarah Peters lost their popular Pleasant Ridge coffee shop in a devastating fire. In 2020, they reopened a block-and-a-half away, closed down again almost immediately because of COVID, and finally reopened again with limited hours last summer. Now, the Coffee Exchange is making yet another major comeback as the Peterses prepare to open a second location, drive-thru only, just a half mile away.
Plans for the drive-thru have been in the works since before the pandemic. Armed with a “gut feeling” that the local market would support it—but aware Pleasant Ridge “has a [zoning] overlay that disallows new drive-thrus,” says Sarah—the couple had their eye on a vacant Kennedy Heights building, the former Beverage Cave, at Montgomery Road and Kennedy Avenue. In fact, Joe had already been talking with that neighborhood’s community council about leasing the space when the pandemic hit. Now, says Joe, “from a COVID standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to have an easy way to get coffee without getting out of your car.”
The challenge? Kennedy Heights has other potential plans for the building, so the Coffee Exchange has a month-to-month lease. The creative workaround? The couple cleaned up the space and gave it a fresh coat of paint, but invested the bulk of their time and money into building a fully equipped coffee trailer instead. “It’s basically a food truck parked inside the building,” says Sarah; so, if Kennedy Heights’s other plans for the space eventually happen, “we can move the trailer permanently out of there and take it to events.”
The drive-thru will open sometime next week, 6–11 a.m., seven days a week. Menu offerings will be a “pared down” version of what’s available at the main shop, says Sarah: coffee and espresso drinks (including their popular “bullseye latte”) and homemade pastries. “We’re starting small,” she says, both to see if they can keep up with an increased demand but also “from a standpoint of [learning] what sells up there.”
In the meantime, back at the Pleasant Ridge store, the couple is also preparing to launch a new catering business and hoping to reopen indoor seating sometime soon as well. In short, they’re still proving what so many in this neighborhood have known all along: it takes more than fire and a global pandemic to keep Joe and Sarah Peters down.