Princeton will get a new coffee shop this spring when former country music guitarist David Waldman opens a companion to his Lambertville roastery Rojo’s on Palmer Square.
Mr. Waldman, who once toured with legends Waylon Jennings and George Jones and was nicknamed Rojo (Red) by Willie Nelson on account of his then red beard and ponytail, has signed the lease with Palmer Square Management for the 700 square-foot space between The Bent Spoon and Thomas Sweet Chocolate. Mr. Waldman’s Lambertville coffee roasters and cafe will remain in operation.
“We have quite a following in Princeton,” said Mr. Waldman. “Many of our customers have asked us when are we coming to Princeton and we’ve been waiting for the right time and looking for the right place for a significant Princeton presence.”
The new cafe will offer a selection of certified organic and sustainably grown coffees brewed by various devices such as Chemex, Hario, CONA vacuum, Turkish, Clever, French Press, or Aeropress. Besides coffee Rojo’s will also have a selection of teas, and tea brewing accoutrements. Brewing equipment and accessories will be available for purchase.
Rojo’s Princeton will open around 7 a.m. to catch the morning crowd and will serve locally baked goods.
Mr. Waldman has said that he wants to “raise coffee IQ,” and like the Lambertville operation, Rojo’s Princeton will offer public coffee tastings. Its trained baristas will give tutorials in how to make a good cup of coffee, espresso, and tea.
Rojo’s Roastery is a small batch artisan coffee roaster which imports, roasts, and sells beans from some 25 countries. It also works with architects and designers to build or renovate cafes, sells equipment, and trains baristas. Its products are currently sold in Princeton at Whole Earth.
Described as the “Wizard of Java” for the meticulous attention to the process by which green beans are sampled, analyzed, and experimentally roasted and sometimes blended, Mr. Waldman opened his Lambertville roastery in 2006 in a semi-industrial building along the Delaware River. Rojo’s uses a rare vintage 1956 gas-fired Probat UG-15 coffee bean roaster that was formerly used by a family business in the French town of Lille.
The Lambertville store was Mr. Waldman’s first departure from the music world. A native of Philadelphia, he is a classically trained musician who was drawn to Nashville where he had a successful career playing pedal steel guitar at the Grand Ole Opry.
A resident of Hopewell Borough for the past 28 years, Mr. Waldman says that he is committed to developing direct, sustainable, and financially beneficial relationships with small independent producers. Of the 85 or so coffee growing countries, 24 are among the best, he says. He buys from small volume growers, many of whom may be too small to sell their beans through the conventional coffee trading industry, in Central America, South America, and Indonesia.
A lot of his product can be labeled “Fair Trade,” but says Mr. Waldman, his social responsibilty philosophy and practice go beyond the scope of Fair Trade. “We work directly with small farmers so that they can make a living wage.” Seventy five to 80 percent of Rojo’s beans are the result of what Mr. Waldman calls “relationship buying.” Rojo’s typically buy a small grower’s entire crop.
“There is definitely room for another coffee place in Princeton,” he says. “Each coffee shop has its own identity and I’m not concerned about competition, there’s plenty of room for all of us.”
Asked for comment, Jessica Durrie, owner of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street, agrees with Mr. Waldman. She has been expecting another coffee establishment to open in Princeton for some five years and is pleased to see another relatively small local business rather than a large chain. The arrival of Rojo’s, says Ms. Durrie “will help to grow and maintain the unique retail landscape that Princeton has to offer. I had lunch with David many years ago, before he opened Rojo’s and while he was crafting his vision in the coffee business, he’s passionate about what he does.”
For more on Rojo’s in Lambertville, call (609) 397-0040, or visit: www. rojosroastery.com.