On the stage, a woman stood to read a poem. It was her first time. Hands shaking, she asked the audience to bare with her before reading her favorite selection from a well-read poetry book.
When she finishes, her nerves vanish as the audience claps politely, celebrating her performance. Even those that came with their laptops or other gadgets look up to encourage the poet.
Nestled between restaurants and shops on Fairmount Avenue stands Mugshots Coffeehouse, a venue that prides itself on locally sourced food, counter-culture coffee and weekly open mic nights.
On a recent Tuesday evening, a small crowd of people held guitars, poetry books and lyric sheets, awaiting a chance to share their talents. Mugshots hosts an open mic night every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m., showcasing between six and eight singer/songwriters, poets, comedians and musicians each week.
Angela Vendetti, Mugshots’ owner, says the open mic night has been attracting regular weekly performers and customers for about five years now. Vendetti opened the shop in 2002.
“That’s when it became successful, in my eyes,” Vendetti said. “It became a regular outlet for local artists and musicians to express their talents.”
Mugshots provides a safe environment for artists of all ages to share their original work with a respectful, receptive audience. For guests, the open mic night provides a mellow alternative to the usual hustle and bustle of traditional Philly nightlife.
While enjoying the local talent, guests can sip on a variety of specialty drinks, including Aztec hot cocoa flavored with cinnamon and cayenne. Mugshot also offers a wide range of foods ideal for any dietary restriction, including gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options.
On a typical day, customers can gather with friends to play board games provided by the shop, read a book, surf the web or simply enjoy the atmosphere. Abra Bailey of Fairmount frequents Mugshots because of the quality food and friendly staff.
“The people here are super nice,” Bailey said, “and their ingredients are a lot more reliable and organic.”
Since 2004, Mugshots has sourced their food ingredients locally to support area farms and the local economy, as well as reduce environmental impacts. Behind the counter, a Mugshots t-shirt proclaims, “you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same thing.”
Mugshots is a founding B-Corporation, meaning it is “setting the new corporate standard for social and environmental performance” according to its website.
“As a certified B-Corp, our mission is based in sustainability, we have a measured impact on our community and the environment [while maintaining a profitable business]. It’s called the triple bottom line: people, planet, profit,” Vendetti said. “To provide a community gathering place for performers helps us to fulfill that mission.”
According to its website, Mugshots will contribute 5 cents from the sale of every water bottle purchased in the shop to local organizations that promote health, cultural vitality, or sustainability in order to give back to the surrounding community.
Mugshots contributes to organizations like Bache Martin, a local elementary school, Friends of Eastern State Penitentiary Park (FESPP), Masterman, Fairmount CDC and other local fundraisers. Since her shop is asked to donate often, Vendetti tries to limit donations to the immediate neighborhood, and organizations that relate to Mugshots’ mission.
“Supporting local business makes a positive impact on the local economy, reduces fuel use associated with shipping, and supports small farmers who use organic methods, as opposed to industrial farming that has a negative impact on the environment, and treats animals like machines,” Vendetti said. “Small organic farmers aren’t using the hormones, pesticides and antibiotics that are making us all sick.”
Previously employed in training programs for pharmacy representatives, Vendetti is happy that her new livelihood offers an outlet for expressions and supports a worthy cause.
“This work is much more meaningful,” Vendetti said. “I get to work for myself, while making a positive impact.”