The new coffee shop in the heart of downtown Damariscotta hopes to create community and connection along with espresso drinks and fresh baked goods.
Cupacity, on the first floor of the Gilbert E. Gay building, 133 Main St., officially opened Saturday, May 18.
The shop offers coffee and espresso drinks, such as lattes and macchiatos, as well as fresh-brewed teas, nitrogen-infused cold-brewed coffee, cold seltzers with optional organic syrup infusions, filtered water, and fresh-squeezed lemonade.
The cozy and trendy shop also offers light bites to eat, such as avocado toast, specialty salads, daily fresh-baked bagels from Hootenanny Bread next door, and different soups each week.
Baked goods are on the menu as well. Samantha Merrill, Cupacity’s manager and lead barista, uses her grandmother’s recipes to whip up an array of muffins, scones, and other items, made fresh each day.
Merrill also makes from scratch the chocolate and caramel flavor sauces used in various coffee drinks, such as the mocha.
According to Susan Murphy, owner of Cupacity and the Gilbert E. Gay building, the focus of the shop is to provide the freshest and most well-crafted food and drinks.
“We don’t do a lot of things, but we try to do the little things that we do super well,” Murphy said, referring to her and Merrill’s philosophy of quality over quantity.
The menu on Cupacity’s website promises that the food offerings will change frequently and the ingredients will be locally sourced when possible.
In addition to the fresh bagels from Hootenanny, the tea from Samovar Tea in Newcastle is as fresh as it can get. The raw ingredients for the eight different varieties of tea are stored in Mason jars and steeped in Samovar’s own curious-looking carafes for three minutes when ordered.
Murphy decided to purchase the Gilbert E. Gay building and open the business when Merrill, Cupacity’s manager, convinced her that downtown Damariscotta needed a quality coffee shop.
“Once the bookshop cafe closed down, we realized there was nowhere to sit and have coffee in Damariscotta anymore – like a latte, an experience of coffee,” Merrill said.
Merrill formerly worked at Buzz Maine, where Murphy would stop in nearly every day for a breve latte, and the two became friends.
Buzz Maine closed in June 2018, followed by the cafe at Maine Coast Book Shop in August 2018. Barn Door Baking Co. opened in the bookshop cafe space in October 2018.
Merrill, who has worked as a barista for the past 10 years, agreed to bring her experience to Cupacity and serve as manager, lead barista, and Murphy’s partner in the renovation and opening of the new shop.
“We make a great team,” Murphy said. “We are both just on the same wavelength.”
Cupacity grinds coffee beans from Topsham-based Wicked Joe and Portland-based Bard Coffee.
Both Murphy and Merrill had to attend barista training with Bard to become an authorized supplier of its products. They had to learn how to properly calibrate an espresso machine, brew espresso, and steam milk, along with other skills that are key to making the perfect coffee drink.
After buying the building earlier this year, Murphy and Merrill set to work around Jan. 18, renovating the first floor to conform to their vision. J.D. Howell Custom Builders and Tom Legault helped with the construction.
The space has a rustic yet somehow modern feel, with the old wooden floors freshly scrubbed, primed, and painted a vibrant shade of teal; a newly installed tin ceiling; a large and shiny stainless steel kitchen hood that Murphy has dubbed “Area 51”; the gleaming, fire-engine-red espresso machine; and an antique-looking upright piano resting in the corner.
Murphy would eventually like to expand the shop’s hours, offer local specialty wines and craft beers, and have story slams and live music. On opening day, which saw a crowd of over 100 customers, Sofia Howell, daughter of J.D. Howell, played the fiddle for the crowd of customers.
“A lot of what I’ve done so far has been connection and word-of-mouth. I want people to be able to just come in here and play music or read poetry if they want to. I really like that vibe of connection,” Murphy said.
This philosophy is embodied in Cupacity’s slogan: “Come for coffee, stay for community.”