When Gregorys Coffee opens its first D.C. location Oct. 26, you might see a guy that looks exactly like its bespectacled logo. Your eyes aren't deceiving you: Yep, that's Gregory.
“If I'm wearing glasses and not wearing a hat, people recognize me,” founder Gregory Zamfotis said. “It's almost like a Wendy's — people are like, 'Is there a Wendy?'”
It won't be long before he's recognizable in D.C., too: Zamfotis, 35, has grand plans for his New York-based coffee chain in the D.C. area. He's opening three locations in rapid succession — the first Gregorys (no apostrophe, like Starbucks) will be at 1900 L St. NW — and there will be more to come, adding to the 26 existing locations. He's focusing on caffeinating downtown workers, and doing it as quickly as possible.
“A lot of people are making great coffee these days,” Zamfotis said. “Not too many are getting people in and out quickly.”
Get in line at a Gregorys, and Zamfotis pledges that your drip coffee or cold brew will be in your hands in two minutes or less from the second you walk through the door. If you're ordering an espresso-based drink, he says it will take about four minutes — and, if they're really swamped, no more than six.
“Fifty people can walk in the door, and I know that the 50th person is not going to wait that long,” he said. “We can get them processed really quickly, but never sacrifice the quality.”
Gregorys is also the kind of place that wants to have a little bit of something for everyone. Zamfotis said they can delve really deep into rare single-origin coffees for the connoisseur, but if a customer wants it, they'll also put whipped cream or syrups in drinks, something that many third-wave coffee chains won't deign to do.
He does like to convert people from those sweeter drinks into more interesting, minimalist coffee drinks. One of the ways that he does it is through the use of the Aeropress, a gadget with a cult following among coffee geeks. Aeropress coffee is made by steeping grounds about 30 seconds in a device that looks like two interlocked cylinders with a filter in between, and then pressing down to force the coffee from one end to the other. There are specially-built Aeropress stands in every Gregorys location. Zamfotis likes the Aeropress because “not only is it crazy consistent, it's really fast too,” he said. “It's very hard to get that consistency on a pour over.”
Gregorys roasts its coffee outside of New York and will ship it to D.C. frequently. After the L Street location opens, Zamfotis will open a second location at 1000 Vermont Ave. NW, and then a third at 1147 20th St. NW, which will also serve as a central commissary for making baked goods. Those are anything from your typical blueberry muffin to vegan, gluten-free “power bites” made with peanut butter and nuts.
Hot on the tail of several trends, Gregorys will also offer green juice, charcoal-infused lemonade and turmeric “mylks,” so named because they're dairy-free. Every location of Gregorys will also provide free WiFi, and laptop “campers” are welcome: “Part of what makes a coffee shop special is that it's a place where you want to spend some time,” Zamfotis said.
Zamfotis comes from a food service background — his father owns several delis in New York — and he realized he wanted to enter the industry after he found law school unfulfilling. He apprenticed with his father, and then began Gregorys in 2006. “Speed, pleasing guests, hustle: These things were baked into me since I was five years old,” Zamfotis said.
As for the self-portrait logo? He didn't set out to become his company's mascot, but a designer pitched the image, which makes his glasses look like two cups of coffee, and it stuck.
But it does require a long-term commitment to a certain style. After 11 years of Gregorys, Zamfotis knows that he can always count on getting ribbed by his regulars whenever he wears contact lenses.