Killer E.S.P. closed late this year after the coffee shop’s entire staff quit not once, but twice. But a new ESP, called ESP Tea & Coffee, with a different vibe and new ownership is opening in just a few days.
Coffee shop staff working for Rob Shelton, owner of Killer E.S.P., walked out in June and again in November following staff allegations of racist and sexist tweets, sexual harassment and numerous health violations.
Now, the former coffee shop at 1012 King St. is getting a fresh start under new ownership.
The lease with Shelton and Killer E.S.P. has been completely dissolved, according to the building’s owner. The premises is now leased to a company launched Erik Muendel, who is a longtime Alexandria tech entrepreneur. He has also hired back some of the old staff.
“I loved Killer E.S.P.,” Muendel told Alexandria Living Magazine. “It was a spot that I went to three to four times a week and honestly I really just didn’t want it to go away.”
Muendel immediately realized it was essential to hire some of the management-level staff from Killer E.S.P.. Not only would it provide continuity for customers, but it would help him navigate a new area of business. Muendel has owned a number of businesses in other sectors over his career but the food and drink industry is unfamiliar territory for him.
The new cafe will be named ESP Tea & Coffee, a nod to its predecessor and an indication of the cafe’s new focus.
“It’s a balance between connecting to the pre-COVID Killer E.S.P., but also changing it slightly so that it’s familiar but different,” Muendel said.
A self-described “tea snob,” Muendel will offer 35 loose leaf teas plus six new, high-end Puehr teas that are specially grown in the Yunnan province of China. These complex teas come in a cake format that will be available in a single serving and larger sizes.
The new cafe will retain a laid back, boho atmosphere with fresh art work, including some original photography. “I really want it to be a comfortable zone. Given all the politics that have been around it, I just want a nice, clean, comfortable, care-free space,” said Muendel.
ESP Tea & Coffee will open next week with a soft opening while they train the new baristas and work out the kinks of a new operation. Follow ESP Tea & Coffee on Instagram @espteaandcoffee for updates.