For a long time now, Michael Jager has been nursing the vision of a Burlington creative and commuter hub in the vein of New York City’s Gerde’s Folk City or Zürich’s Cabaret Voltaire. On Friday, he’ll bring that vision to life in the form of a massive, industrial-chic café to open steps from the Burlington bike path, in the basement of the JDK building.
“It’s been building in my mind and heart for the last four or five years,” says Jager of Maglianero, which he named for the black jersey given to the last cyclist to finish an Italian race. Jager, chief creative officer of JDK Design, is also a dedicated cyclist who pedals to work most days of the year. “I’ve always wanted to participate in and allow that café experience where cultural collusion happens, whether it’s artists, designers, athletes, playwrights, musicians or writers. [We wanted to] facilitate creative, positive change and help people meet each other and share ideas,” he says. And drink really, really good coffee.
Maglianero, which is accessed from the back of the JDK building, offers plenty of room for creative ferment: The 4000-square-foot space has long hosted exhibitions and events and even features a skate park along one wall. The skate ramps remain, but the meandering space now has pine and ash tables and counters, benches, chairs, and two enormous communal tables for meetings both casual and formal. Murals cover the walls, and wireless access is a given.
Jager says the café epitomizes his goal of a “modern mobility movement” that celebrates the environmental and fitness benefits of bicycling, skateboarding and walking. The space has an indoor corner to rest bikes, “for people who are just slipping in; we don’t want them to have to worry about locking it,” says café manager Jesse Bladyka. Also on hand are tools to fix tires and perform tune-ups and equipment for cleaning both bikes and their sweaty riders: an outdoor hose and an indoor shower. The staff plans to bring in high-profile local cyclists for classes and lectures.
But, if cycling is a central passion here, so is coffee. The nerve center of the space is the copper-topped bar. A longtime barista, Bladyka heard about the gestating Maglianero through the “coffee community” while working in Wyoming and moved back to his home state this spring to help manage the venture. He’s shown his commitment to capturing coffee’s subtlety of flavor by experimenting with different brewing methods for the beans that have been carefully chosen and roasted by Mané Alves of Waterbury’s Vermont Artisan Coffee & Tea Co.
Alves has direct-sourced three single-origin roasts — one each from Ethiopia, Kenya and Guatemala — and worked with the farmers to set prices. Bladyka plans to offer slower brewing methods, such as café solo, pour-over and ice drip, during off-peak hours. He’s putting his staff through a 40-hour training regimen. “It’s an art and a craft, and it needs to be practiced with care,” says Bladyka.
The bar is outfitted with a La Marzocco espresso machine on a swivel stand, so it can be used for demonstrations. A glass case will house pastries, bagels, and perhaps grab-and-go yogurt and fruit. Don’t expect much else to start — coffee is the star here, along with a small selection of teas from Vermont Artisan.
Maglianero will serve Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will continue to serve as an art exhibition space, as well as a lecture and for-hire meeting area and live music venue. Jager and crew will use the space to debut a cycling apparel line ranging from caps to gloves that will ultimately include “custom-tailored, bespoke pieces,” he says.
But for now, he’s focusing on tailoring a new hangout for creative and business communities that love their caffeination as much as their pedal power.