Federal Coffee owner Noah Cleveland Photo by Rachel Winston
The inspiration for a European-style coffee shop came to Noah Cleveland while visiting cafés during a 600-mile walk from the south of France to the west coast of Spain. But it took about 12 years before the former custom bicycle maker, conceptual artist, underground DJ and bartender could open Federal Coffee and Tea.
Cleveland financed the 4-month-old shop for a little less than $60,000, using some of the money that he received from a car-accident settlement. He says he realized by then that making custom bikes was not how he was going to have significant success. "People will spend $4 for a good cup of coffee … not enough people have that love for bikes anymore," he says. "Coffee is solid, and I love coffee. Who doesn't?"
Now, Cleveland sees sandwiches and the shop's design as ways to express his artistic side. Even the location at the former Franklin Federal Savings and Loan building has aesthetic advantages. "I wanted something where there is this epic, giant stone building with a sort of temple feel," he says.
Inside, hints of Cleveland's various hobbies are subtly planted throughout Federal Coffee and Tea. Staggered breadboxes and coffee ingredients on shelves aim to create the impression of visual sound. For a more European touch, an antique Turkish couch and a vintage jukebox offset the blue willow-patterned china. And his passion for bicycles is evident by the display of a track bike on top of a bookshelf.
Cleveland's love of modern music has also trickled into the menu. "The names [of dishes] are modern musicians, some of them are producers and some of them are even actual elements of modern music," he says. A turkey and pesto sandwich is named the Tiesto, for an electro DJ from the Netherlands. Norman Cook, a British breakbeat DJ, is honored with a sandwich containing hard-boiled eggs, bacon, mixed greens, blue cheese, tomato and honey-mustard dressing.
"The way it all comes together is a little out of the ordinary," he says. He wanted a modern atmosphere with a few decades of wear. He adds, "This place is an '84 Camaro, not a Dodge Viper."
Federal Coffee and Tea
616 E. Franklin St., 644-4754, thefedrva.com
Hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.