One Up One Down Roastery and Caffe

Vince Camiolo held a soft opening for One Up One Down Roastery and Cafe in early June.

The first thing Vince Camiolo does when he steps into his One Up One Down Roastery and Caffe at 750 Cass Street, Trenton, is to check the orders to be filled by the shop he runs with his wife, Natalie Rockwell.

Then the long-time coffee drinker and experienced roaster makes his first cup of java and turns on the roaster — and turns on the business.

While the shop had a soft opening in early June, it has been a work in progress.

“We signed the lease on October 7,” Camiolo says during a recent interview about his venture. “The majority of the time has been remodeling.”

Located in the former Polish Falcons Club building now owned by Trenton artists and arts coordinators Lauren Otis and Andrew Wilkinson, the shop site was the former home of Abdul Quadir Wiswall’s Trenton Coffeehouse Roaster — a city coffee destination and a place for artists and musicians to gather.

Currently providing only take-out, One Up One Down is open Sundays through Wednesdays.

The schedule allows the couple to have a presence on the weekend and on Monday when the nearby Finca Cafe is closed.

Finca is a coffee client and is partnering with One Up to strengthen the coffee shop scene in the South Broad Street neighborhood.

Camiolo says the business’s name — printed on a logo based on the couple’s dog’s up and down ears — represents two different ideas.

One relates to their main product and their commitment to producing balanced tasting coffee.

The other reflects Camiolo’s interest in living a balanced life. “It’s influenced by Greek philosophy, stoicism. Moving forward no matter what is in front of you, to have the balance to overcome any obstacle or not seeing something as an obstacle to begin with,” he says.

The couple is also incorporating a Spartan business approach. “We’re doing it debt free. We’re doing this with mostly savings. We haven’t taken any loans or investors. We want to stay lean for now,” he says.

To help keep the coffee steaming Rockwell continues to work as a specialty food representative, and Camiolo continues to work for BikeFlights, the bicycle shipping company that he joined several years ago.

They also renovated and staff the place, along with the efforts of partner Erik Hischmann, a friend and Langhorne-based drummer.

Camiolo says coffee as a business has been on his mind for some time. “I’ve been roasting coffee overall for probably close to 10 years. About six years ago I worked for roaster in Lambertville — Rojo’s Roastery (on Union Street). I was there for about a year and half. I was a roaster apprentice and then production roaster.”

Although he left to pursue photography and has had work in various trade publications, including the publication for the company he joined, BikeFlights, he says he continued to roast. “I bought a small roaster and started a subscription. I did that for about five years. It was like a side hustle. I was always keeping my eyes and ears out for the perfect space because I enjoyed it. But it didn’t come up. So I was continuing the cycling business.”

He says it was a chance meeting with Wilkinson at a party where he heard that Wiswall was moving out.

“I had been to (Wiswall’s) shop once,” says Camiolo. “We talked coffee. My wife had been there a few times. It was our kind of place, down to earth. It had an oasis kind of vibe. I didn’t know Andrew was the owner. He and I talked, and it seemed a good fit for both of us.”

Talking a broad look at his business, Camiolo says, “There are a lot of specialty coffee roasters that seem to be popping up in the area. I try to take a very down-to-earth approach to specialty coffee. It can be elitist and pretentious. I want to attract anyone who likes coffee — from snobs or someone who gets it at the gas station.”

The goal of specialty coffee, he says, is to benefit everyone from farmer to processor to consumer.

Friend and drummer Erik Hischmann helps Camiolo and his wife operate their cafe.

He says in order to supplement his Lambertville experiences he took classes through the roaster’s guild, talked to other roasters, read books and blogs, and stayed active making small batches.

“I’m a roaster first and foremost,” he says. “I want to supply high quality roasted coffee for people to take home. We’ll also have a cafe that has batched brew and filter pour overs.

They also serve pastries from Factory Girl in New Hope, provide teas from the Trenton-based Tea For All Company, sell a variety of home coffee making supplies, and have a coffee club.

He says his coffee is sourced through different specialty coffee importers with a strong focus on sustainability and fair pricing. It is mostly delivered, though on occasion he will pick it up at a warehouse in South Amboy.

A Raven Rock resident, Camiolo grew up in Warminster, Bucks County. His father worked for a telephone company first as an installer and then as a computer programmer. His mother worked in telecommunications for Bell Telephone and then Temple University.

When he graduated from high school in 1998 he enrolled at Temple University but dropped out to work with and start a sign company. After a few years he returned to Temple and graduated with a degree in photojournalism and anthropology in 2007.

He credits his father’s habit of drinking coffee black for developing his tastes. “I always drink it black and notice different qualities and origins.”

It also helped him to determine the factors that make a “good” cup of coffee. “Balance is important. I don’t want to taste any elements of smokiness or char. I’m not a dark roast kind of guy and don’t roast anything dark. I want some citrus. But if it is going to be floral or fruity, citrus, and acidic I want it balanced with base notes like chocolate — milk or dark chocolate. I like the idea the idea of coffee tasting sessions and not getting fatigued by an overwhelming flavor.”

He adds that another feature of the shop is that “the majority of what we serve is animal-product free. The only thing we have in the shop that has animal products is half and half. All our other products are oat milk and Macedonian milk for espresso drinks. And our pastries are all vegan.”

The reason, he says, is “That’s how I live. I eat a plant-based diet. I was in a coffee shop in Omaha that was vegan and I didn’t notice. So I saw that it could work without being in someone’s face, that it was easy to have a coffee shop without animal products.

“Over the past four years I traveled the country for bicycling-related work, so I visited coffee shops. So it was four years of research for this cafe,” he says.

However, he could not research what was waiting ahead. “We were making a lot of big mistakes that seemed overwhelming at first, but we have the slogan, so I had to keep applying it in my head. The first roaster was a used one and wasn’t working out. So I had to cut my losses. Other equipment I had purchased wasn’t what it was advertised as. And we did not expect to take six months to get to the place where we wanted it — but that’s what happens.”

Then there was the surprise that took the nation. “The pandemic just kind of put the brakes on our progress, for sure. We thought we were ready to start welcoming people into the cafe. But it caused us to pivot a bit and look at different aspects of the business — roasting and products. It was a challenge that helped us focus and be more methodical.”

Since signing the lease, Camiolo says one of the biggest and most interesting learning curves has been taking in Trenton’s history and “the way the city has evolved and the issues it has been facing over time and what people envision for the future. The community is really impressive.”

Currently the community showing up at his shop consists of several segments. “We’re getting a lot of people who were customers of Abdul. He laid the groundwork for people who like specialty coffee, so we appreciate it.”

Others include the followers of Camiolo’s roasting blog and those the couple met while participating in Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market events.

Looking ahead, he shares some personal information: He and Rockwell are expecting their first child in September, with Hischmann and his wife expecting theirs in October.

He then talks about business re-openings. “We’re going to be cautious. If we don’t feel safe, we’re not going to do it, even if the governor says it’s okay. We may have to get creative on how we can sell our cafe products. We’re taking it one step at a time.”

But that’s the future, Camiolo says. Lately, at the end of day — after turning off the gas and back flushing the espresso machine — “I just stop at the door and look and be amazed by all the work we did the last six months. We did it all by hand. It was quite an undertaking,” he says.

One Up One Down Roastery and Caffe, 750 Cass Street, Trenton. Sunday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. www.oneuponedowncoffee.com.

Finca Cafe Brews Flavors and Hopes

Dina Ochoa-Gomez, left, and Guillermo Gomez of Finca Cafe.

Finca cafe co-owner Dina Ochoa-Gomez smiles as she stands at the counter and stares at her table free restaurant at 862 South Broad Street in Trenton.

While the cafe officially opened in March and generated excitement and patrons, Dina says, “Everything changed.”

With the pandemic forcing Dina and her co-owner husband, Guillermo Gomez, to quickly shutter their newly opened business for several weeks, the two refocused to provide take out only and get the permits to create outdoor seating in what is normally the street’s parking strip.

And while she says business is not what it had been, they are optimistic.

When the couple took over an old delicatessen, they established themselves as part of a new wave of Trenton pioneers who believe in the city while facing ongoing problems related to the pandemic

“We have been lovers of the city of Trenton. We are passionate about the city of Trenton. We have our roots in the business, and all our family is here,” says Guillermo.

While they live with their two daughters in Willingboro, the couple “wanted to be part of the renaissance of the city of Trenton, particularly in Chambersburg (the former Italian section). Where you see a transformation in the terms of demographics, home ownership, housing, and, most importantly, the economic development,” Guillermo says.

Dina adds, “We’ve seen a tremendous rate of immigrants coming into Chambersburg.”

That includes both of them.

She came from Guatemala when her shoe-factory worker father brought the family to New Jersey to find more opportunities and to learn English.

Guillermo came from Caicedonia, Colombia, in order to stay alive.

“I am the son and grandson of coffee growers. I lived there until I was 15. At that time we had to flee the country and seek political asylum. My father was killed two months before coming here. We could not live there. It took five years for asylum,” he says.

He says he was present when a group of guerrillas who extorted farmers and punished them if they resisted took away his father and killed him.

“The guerrillas threatened our family. We couldn’t be there anymore, even after my father was killed. (Guerrilla members) were coming to my school because I saw the people who took him.” It was September 12, 2000.

“We didn’t know, as kids, what was happening,” he says. “If you refused to give money, you become a target. Or if you spoke out against their political beliefs, you become a target. Unfortunately we became part of that history.”

His Trenton connection was through an aunt who moved to the city in the mid-1980s. In 1997 his mother visited her and spent the year.

“We first arrived in Miami, and my mom found no job,” he says about leaving Columbia. “We found more opportunity in Trenton. We ended up living in the living room in a one-bedroom apartment of a couple who were friends who gave us refuge. At 16 I was always working and helping.”

Dina says, “When I met him and he told me the story, I was very impressed. As a teenager he was able to overcome this challenge. And I knew he had great potential. He had a strong personality and character and knew what he wanted — to make a positive change.”

That includes the cafe. “It has been his dream, coming from a coffee country,” she says. “I saw his passion. I saw his dream, and I supported it.”

Both say they had other careers and were “working for an opportunity.” Both are agents for Garcia Real Estate, and Guillermo worked for 15 years in sales and as a business banking specialist for Wells Fargo and Santander banks. He says he met his future wife when he made a presentation for the Guatemalan Civic Association that was co-founded by Dina.

Guillermo also had some background in restaurant work. “My mom has always had restaurants. She sold Colombian food. In Colombia we owned the farm, and there were restaurants we worked with as kids. I had experience since I was a kid. And for a brief time here, I worked for Subway when I was in high school. That was a great learning experience in food service.”

Guillermo says they bought the cafe with cash. “We did a lot of brainstorming and sacrifice to get into the building. We did all we could to make the place beautiful,” he says.

But it hadn’t been easy.

The building closing took longer than anticipated and family members became ill.

Then it was the learning about running a business the hard way. “The reality is that when we opened we didn’t know about what we know now. We didn’t know about our suppliers, distributors, everything has been a very fast learning process.”

What they had going for them was a support network. “We were so fortunate to have the help of my cousin, Julian Reyos, and his wife, Louisa Quintero. They came from Colombia, and they had a tourism agency in the coffee district,” where they would take tourists to experience the region for three or four days at a time. “They have been critical in with the development of the (restaurant’s) idea, the concept, the color scheme, the message that we put out. Julian helped me with construction.” Meanwhile, Louisa works the counter.

Referring to a team effort, Guillermo also mentions Guatalinda Restaurant owner Juan Carlos Diaz who “helped us navigate the bureaucracy. If it weren’t for him, we’d be trying to open this place. We were blessed for having the kind of family and friends that we had. We also have to thank our credit cards. They have been friendly to us.”

While it is still not easy, the couple continues to invest in their coffee and community — working with others to turn the district into a cafe destination.

That includes One is One Up and One Down Coffee, one block away from Finca. It is providing the couple with a special roast — or taste brand — that will differentiate the two cafes. They are also working with the recently opened Trenton Ice Cream Parlor on South Broad Street.

Looking at the uncertainty, Guillermo says growing up on a farm helped him understands that building a business requires effort and sacrifice.

And just to keep that in mind, he says, “Finca means farm.”

Finca Cafe, 862 South Broad Street, Trenton. Tuesdays through Fridays, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 609-571-9211.

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