Brewing Up New Business

by Ann Siock | Staff Writer

SCRANTON — Something’s brewing downtown that’s grounds to perk up University students this semester.

Commonwealth Coffeehouse, which houses Patrice B & Co.’s boutique location, opened its doors earlier this month.

Shop owners Tom Bonin and Patrice, University of Scranton class of ‘90, built their business at 101 Penn Ave., across the street from the Marketplace at Steamtown in the old Samter Brothers’ Clothing Store.

Commonwealth Coffeehouse owners Patrice Bonin, University of Scranton class of ‘90, and Tom Bonin.

The building’s history and its proximity to Steamtown were important factors in the design and branding of Commonwealth Coffeehouse, which boasts a train rattling down a set of railroad tracks in its logo and a ceiling made to resemble the metal ceilings that were popular when the building was constructed in 1923.

Steamtown even affected the shop’s coffee brand. After conducting a search for a coffee roaster that stretched from Binghamton to Philadelphia, the Bonins found a small, private roasting company near Lancaster that they chose to work with.

“He does a great job, [the company has] been in business for 140-some years,” Tom Bonin said. “And equally important – he’s a train enthusiast. Our private roast is called Steamtown Roast and all of our coffee is named after trains.”

Their coffee menu boasts names of local significance such as “Yankee Clipper,” “Georgia Express,” and “Phoebe Snow” as well as the series known as the “Lake Cities.”

Commonwealth Coffeehouse’s full menu.

“If you’re a train enthusiast in this area, you would know that there was at one point in time a number of trains that ran called the Lake Cities and they were Lake Cities one, two, three, and four. So our goal with the Lake Cities is to have them go along with the four seasons,” Tom Bonin said.

Commonwealth’s winter brew and the current Lake City in season is Lake City No. 4, which is a maple-walnut flavored coffee.

Aside from their specialty coffee roasts, the Commonwealth Coffeehouse boasts high-grade equipment, allowing their menu to run everything from a latte to a café macchiato.

“I have great espresso and coffee equipment so there is no drink that we can’t make for a coffee shop,” Tom Bonin said. “So we’ll make as many lattes and macchiatos as anyone wants to digest.”

For non-coffee drinkers, this new shop serves teas of assorted flavors as well as hot chocolate. The coffeehouse serves light fare for breakfast and lunch, sandwiches, soups and salads as well as a plethora of pastries. Tom Bonin even had some insights on his personal favorites.

“I like the Italian sandwich but my favorite menu item is that we specially sourced a baguette from Canada. It’s our signature hoagie baguette, and whether I get it with the chicken salad sandwich, the sausage sandwich or the Italian sandwich, the baguette makes the sandwich,” Tom Bonin said with a chuckle. “The bread makes the sandwich, we can say.”

Commonwealth Coffeehouse currently features its coffee shop and deli along with a boutique. The owners also have plans for a flower and gift shop in the future.

Along with future plans for the coffee shop and the boutique, the Bonins plan on opening up a flower shop and small gift shop on the inside of their location as well, framing it off with the mixed-retail designs they saw in cities like New York, Philadelphia and Georgetown.

“We wanted to create a place that if you’re 72 years old or 17, you’d enjoy it,” Tom Bonin said, a look of proud excitement on his face as he surveyed the interior of his shop from a table near the counter.