Friday morning, South Avenue.
Behind the counter stands Ryan Baker: busy, bearded, and bespectacled. Around him a few tables are pushed up against the walls and beneath the windows along the storefront. It is hot in the small room. Sunlight pours in through the windows, the machine lets out a sigh and a cloud of steam.
The name says it all.
“Meraki (pronounced may-rah-kee) is a modern Greek word,” Ryan tells a customer as he pulls another shot of espresso from the machine. “It means to do something with passion, creativity, or soul.”
Adding the final touches to a Salted Nutella Latte (his signature flavor), Ryan delicately swirls the hot milk back and forth across the top of the cup. In the foam, it forms the shape of a fern.
“This is my soul, my passion — this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.”
Meraki Coffee Co., a pop-up espresso bar, is Ryan’s latest contribution to the coffee scene here in Rochester. He has been a part of the coffee community for the last two years as a barista at Glen Edith and now, proudly, as a business owner. “The people of Rochester have been very supportive,” he says. “Starting my own business is something I’ve always dreamed of, and something they wanted to see happen. I’m humbled.”
For Ryan, even the bar has significance — it’s made from repurposed barn wood taken from his grandparents’ barn in Almond (Allegany County), NY. “I remember playing in this as a kid,” he taps the bar with his hands. “It’s great that it’s being used here now.” The bar is painted black, with the Meraki logo on the front in white.
Behind the bar are more ingredients and a mini fridge to keep things cold. It’s called a ‘pop-up’ but a working espresso bar requires a lot of effort to set up and tear down. “Not to mention,” Ryan says with a laugh, “the old barn wood is really heavy.”
But heavy-lifting aside, Ryan has the ability to take his business wherever he needs it to go. “That’s the advantage of a mobile coffee shop,” he says. “Instead of my customers having to come to me, I can go directly to them.”
If you’re looking for Meraki on the regular, Cheesy Eddie's on South Avenue is the place to go every Thursday through Saturday; and Ryan plans to start popping up at other locations very soon.
Chase Ferren contributed additional reporting to this piece.