Justin Fox Burks
City & State, tucked away on the corner of Broad Avenue and Collins Street, is one of the few places in the neighborhood that is open in the mornings. In fact, it is the only place on Broad Avenue to grab a bite to eat before 11 a.m.
Owned by Lisa Toro and her husband, Luis Toro, the hybrid coffee shop opened for business
about a year ago. Lisa Toro says the opening was timed just right.
“We got in on the street as it is still gaining momentum, and we want to be part of its longer-term growth,” she explains.
City & State serves coffee and tea, but it also carries a wide array of carefully selected artisan goods from around the country, ranging from bags and spices made in Memphis to hand-made soaps from Seattle. The coffee shop’s name references the eclectic retail approach.
“We buy from all over,” Toro says. “I have leather providers from Indiana to San Diego.”
More specifically, the store features between 40 and 50 brands and artisans at any given time, including familiar gifts such as T-shirts and bags, along with more unique items like cross-stitching patterns and tourism guides for different cities.
Despite the broad range of retail goods, most customers initially come to City & State for its coffee, made with the lauded Intelligentsia brand from Chicago and served in a variety of pourovers and espresso drinks. The shop also serves perfectly steeped teas (try white peony) and sandwiches and baked goods from Porcellino’s on Brookhaven Circle.
“Most people seem surprised when they find the retail store on their first visit,” Toro says. “Our original concept was all retail, but when we found this building, we wanted to make it a gathering space, and coffee just became a part of that idea.”
Toro and her head barista, DJ Skipps, develop the shop’s coffee drinks based on what they like and what they think customers will enjoy. They use all organic ingredients. “We don’t copy anything, and we always try to throw in something surprising that people haven’t tasted,” Skipps says.
For instance, the Smokey Salted Caramel Latte is made with organic whole milk and tastes a little smokey with notes of caramel. The drink’s hint of salt comes from smoked sea salt made locally. The bar’s deconstructed pumpkin latte combines pumpkin puree with special spices.
But for both Skipps and Toro, coffee isn’t just about taste; it’s about bringing people together. “Coffee breeds conversation,” Toro says. “It’s all about the ritual of coffee. We also thought it was a way to bring more people out to Broad, since not much is open in the mornings.”
2625 Broad Avenue (901-249-2406)