brew tulum photo by jessica rogen

Brew Tulum Specialty Coffee Experience has reopened on Laclede's Landing in downtown St. Louis

The short version of the story is that Brew Tulum Specialty Coffee Experience rides again.

The Yucatan roastery and daytime spot closed its Delmar Maker District brick-and-mortar late last year after a dispute with its landlord over lead contamination. But for the last week, owners and spouses Laura McNamara and Alberto Juarez have reopened as the coffee provider within Cobblestone, a market and cafe at 701 N. First St. that will fully launch next month. They also are slated to open their own space just next door at 700 N. Second St. by late fall or early winter. 

But the backstory isn’t that simple, and it’s not the tale of one restaurant but of a whole neighborhood: Laclede’s Landing. What once was a hot St. Louis nightlife spot took hit after hit with the casino, 2009 recession and more and emptied out. But in the last few years, the neighborhood has seen major reinvestment from the Advantes Group developers.

“It’s a complicated but awesome story,” McNamara said. It began last year when Brew Tulum was looking for a way to get restarted and launched pop-ups at the Lake Saint Louis Farmers & Artists Market. A client who runs a Landing building connected them with Advantes’ husband-and-wife team Brian and Gretchen Minges.

The Minges offered to show McNamara and Juarez some space in their Landing properties, and the historic buildings with their tall ceilings and old bricks swept the duo off their feet.

“We saw the space and immediately fell in love with it,” McNamara said. “It's hard not to, especially to see everything that [Advantes has] done down here. You know, all the cobblestone is repaved. The light posts have all their beautiful planters now since spring, and you could see the love that had already been put into the Landing.”

Through the Minges, Brew Tulum connected with Cobblestone owners Camille Jackson and Christopher McMenomy and began doing pop-ups together. Then Cobblestone’s relationship with the coffee purveyor slated to run its coffee window fell through and, next thing you know, Brew Tulum was in.

Jackson said the pairing instantly made sense. “Their concept is great. Just fantastic people,” she said. “... The tamales are so good, but then, community wise, that’s what we’re all about: growing with each other and supporting each other.”

At the coffee concept within Cobblestone, Brew Tulum offers quick-turn service that is mostly coffees and will include some less complicated food items such as toasts. Currently, the menu has café de la casa (pressed, not brewed), pour-overs, classic coffee drinks such as lattes, cold brew, spiced coffees such as its trademark café de olla (a traditional Mexican coffee flavored with cinnamon and chocolate and served in a clay pot) and coffee coolers as well as teas and juices. When the full location opens, it will serve a menu similar to the Delmar spot that focuses, for the beginning, on breakfast and lunch food items and specialty coffee drinks. McNamara said that they hope to eventually expand to dinner service and upscale drinks with a lounge feel.

“People don't think of the Landing as a neighborhood, but it really has become one,” McNamara said. That’s become apparent in the last week, as the neighborhood has turned out to sample Brew Tulum’s offerings within Cobblestone. The building they are in also houses Abstrakt Marketing Group and is within walking distance from Adventes’ six residential buildings, which Gretchen Minges said are between 85 and 100 percent occupied.

Now “amazing partners to come in with the retail component are so needed,” Minges said. “But not everyone is willing to put the work in in order for it to get there.”

But Brew Tulum is more than game to do that work. McNamara said they’re thrilled to reopen, even if they are still digging themselves out financially from the closure of their first spot. One thing that’s been invaluable has been an upwelling of community support.

“Seeing all that support has been very humbling and moving and exciting,” she said. “We’re excited to be part of a bigger story as well.”