When Penny Romero and her business partner, Rick Ramsey, purchased an empty, overgrown lot in Martin City, they knew it had potential. It was Romero who would decide the lot’s fate; a new local coffee shop.
“I went to the library and researched demographics and coffee shops in the area and it pretty much cemented my idea, I was like yep, it’s a good spot for a coffee shop,” Romero said.
After about two years getting the building up, Martin City Coffee was born in October 2018. Romero originally only planned on selling coffee beverages but decided to sell food thanks to the building’s layout that worked well for a kitchen.
Romero, who grew up in Dominican Republic and Venezuela, was used to eating Latin American food, which would inspire her menu at Martin City Coffee.
“We kind of have a different type of menu than any other coffee shop, we have Venzuelan arepas, fried green plantains and yuca fries,” Romero said. “We serve breakfast all day and have the classic dishes like salmon bagels and fried eggs, homestyle potatoes, bacon and biscuits and gravy.”
Her number one selling food item? Breakfast burritos. Tortillas made from scratch!
Romero exclusively serves Intelligentsia Coffee, which she had been drinking and ordering online for years and became her favorite.
“The coffee is exceptional,” Romero said.
Romero gives much credit to her manager, Phillip Stegner, who was the first person she hired as a barista. She admits she is not a barista and needed someone who knew what they were doing.
“He worked at a lot of other coffee shops in the past and he has trained everyone that we’ve hired, and the quality and the passion he has for coffee really shows,” Romero said.
Her coffee menu consists of cold brew, lattes, americanos, espresso, frappes, and of course brewed coffee.
When asked what her favorite coffee drink is, Romero’s answer can’t be found on the menu.
“I call it the cubano latte, I like my latte to be made with a cubano shot, which is sweeter and is just perfect,” Romero said. “I highly recommend it to everyone who asks me.”
Her business is packed on weekends with all-day breakfast options. Martin City Coffee also has a drive-thru, which Romero said played a huge role in saving the business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When customers walk through the shop and out through the back door, they will find themselves in an enclosed, garden patio surrounded by plants. The patio has windows that are garage doors that can open up.
“It is so inviting, I highly recommend it,” Romero said.
Romero said one of her favorite parts about owning Martin City Coffee is seeing her amazing customers, many of whom are regulars.
She said the hard-working, close-knit group of employees helps make the business special to her and others in the community.
“We’re like a family at work, and I have such a great team of employees, and I’ve never seen that anywhere else so it’s been really cool,” Romero said. “I have people that have been with us since we opened on day one and everyone does stuff together outside of work.”