Mt. Airy coffee shop signs lease with Chelten Plaza

Chelten Plaza, a controversial commercial shopping center planned for the corner of Chelten and Pulaski in Germantown, will have a locally owned coffee shop.

Wired Beans Cafe, a Mt. Airy based coffee shop will open a second location in Chelten Plaza in spot closest to the Chelten regional rail train station after recently signing a lease with the developer, Pulaski Partners.

Wired Beans Cafe owner Robert Wheeler and Patrick Burns, of the Pulaski Partners team discussed the possibilities for the project for nearly two months before a contract was finalized. One result is a “walk-up” coffee window just steps from the train stop entrance, and the 1300 sq ft coffee shop received substantial start-up cost support.

“They put their money where their mouth was, that’s all I can say,” commented Wheeler who declined to provide further details on the money deal, but called the final offer “very generous.”

Chelten Plaza is a $14 million dollar project, which includes $4 million in state grant money through the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program (RACP). It will include an 18,000 sq ft Sav-A-Lot, a Dollar Tree, Anna’s Linens, Citi-bank, and now Wired Beans Cafe.

For Wheeler, he sees the deal as an extension of his dream, to expand his cafe into Germantown. After only a year in business at 6734 Germantown Ave. he says the shop is doing well and isn’t losing money, a feat in an economic recession.

A native of East Germantown, Wheeler has been an entrepreneur for years. He has run a day care center, catering business, car detailing shop and even take-out seafood restaurant. Although he’s not a coffee drinker, Wheeler says he wanted to try something different and was tired of the same businesses in his neighborhood.

“There’s so many stop and go’s, so many Chinese stores, and dollar stores all over Germantown,” he said. Realistically he says that having a diverse commercial district attracts new businesses and even community growth.

“No real estate company puts in an ad that there’s a Metro PCS down the street…or raise the value of the half a million dollar homes back here, but a nice restaurant or cafe does,” he added.

And yet, Wheeler says he isn’t opposed the new Dollar Tree at Chelten Plaza because he sees the store as temporary and says that if residents want to support a different business the infrastructure has been built.

“I really feel like in the next five years people will be fighting over spaces to come down there,” he said

Wheeler says that the newly minted eighth district Councilwoman Cindy Bass encouraged him to negotiate with the developer initially when his business was mentioned during an ad hoc committee meeting hosted by Germantown Community Connection over the summer. He says Bass’s initial encouragement gave him confidence.

Cindy Bass is withholding her judgement on the Dollar Tree controversy. She told NewsWorks that while Germantown doesn’t need another variety store but that she’s still waiting on the final outcome of the zoning appeal, which will decide whether a Dollar Tree is allowed at Chelten Plaza. Bass who will be sworn into City Council in January hopes some consensus can be found. “We have to find ways to balance, Germantown is wonderfully diverse,” she said.

The Chelten Plaza development, the site of neighborhood controversy, protests, has even spurred the creation of a new community development corporation, Germantown United. But on the face of it, Wheeler has strong community support–even from the anti-Chelten development crew.

“After so much negativity that went on over there—to give people something they actually need and want is just an honor,” he said.

The Wired Beans owner says he expects to hire between 10-15 new employees, mostly servers and baristas at the new location and will open at 6 a.m. to entice early morning train commuters for a cup of java. Similar to his Mt Airy location, the cafe will host open mics, poetry nights, and even be open for community meetings.

Wheeler, who is a constant figure at the Mt Airy store, says that his customers are now asking which location he will spend most of his time working at.

The new cafe is expected to open by January.

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