Just over a year ago, Story and Soil opened its doors on Capital Ave to the public. Owned by Sarah McCoy, Michael McCoy, and Michael Acosta, Story and Soil is an eclectic specialty coffee shop that has been inspiring new businesses and people to venture into the neighborhood and make it their own.
Sarah McCoy and her husband, Michael, moved to Hartford three years ago when their oldest daughter got into a magnet school in the city. Her husband was teaching and every day they were coming across the river, so they decided they would make the jump and move into the city. “We really found that there was a community here that we didn’t know existed from the suburbs looking in,” she explained.
“If you would have told me 20 years ago that I would be living and working in Hartford, I wouldn’t have picked it. I’m from the suburbs, and we would come into the city for a show at the Bushnell or a random one-off event. But now that I’m here, I can see the strong community that’s in place,” says Sarah.
Once they settled into the city, they immediately felt the need to become a part of the community, and to offer “something that Hartford didn’t have.” So they started tossing around the idea of opening either an ice cream shop or a coffee shop. They looked at a couple of locations and quickly settled on their current Capitol Ave location.
They were immediately drawn to the Frog Hollow neighborhood and its rich history, but the primary reason they chose to set up shop there was its unique community. ”We get a lot of artist’s community and alternative workers coming in from Parkville. But we’re also kind of on a major thoroughfare for the downtown workers.”
Before Story and Soil joined the neighborhood, Firebox and Billings Forge set the anchor in caring for Frog Hollow, finding ways to reach the community in a unique way. Shortly after, Little River Restoratives, a craft cocktail bar around the corner, opened and “they had a very successful craft business that set an anchor for this block.” All of that made the question of location easy for them to answer – they found the perfect home for their business on Capitol Ave.
The feedback from the community has been more than amazing. Sarah noted, “We thought we were going to be more of a Monday through Friday business with the state offices and people living in the area, but we’ve been really surprised with the weekend crowd and people making us a destination.”
Sarah and her team admit to having a lot of help from others before their journey began, like “talking to people at Reset and talking to other people who have done it.” She says as a call to action to those who are thinking about starting a business, “I think that while it’s a lot of work, and there’s a lot of times where you can question yourself, if you really feel passionate about what you’re doing and can see the value in it, Hartford needs you. Hartford needs young people who aren’t looking to be in the insurance industry but to build up the other industries that are here.”
“We are always striving to see where we can improve and to see where we can make genuine connections.” Story and Soil makes it a point to often partner up with local businesses and people who have the same values as they do and bring them in, including local chefs and artists for pop-ups.
“We see ourselves as really a concierge to the city. We want people to love Hartford just as much as we do. A lot of the people we see that come in are from NY or LA or outside the community are used to specialty coffee and know what we’re doing, but maybe don’t know where else to head. So we’re always very conscious to recommend places in Hartford and the hidden gems that might get overlooked,” says Sarah. She notes that neighbors really support each other here and that it has been great to witness and contribute to, which has been a common theme amongst everyone that we have met on this journey.