Ristretto Lounge: the sweetest part of the community


Ristretto Lounge: the sweetest part of the community

M.A. Hughes | Auburn-Opelika Tourism

Tucked away in its own corner of Opelika, Ristretto Lounge offers the Auburn-Opelika community a unique coffee shop experience. It’s at once fresh and inviting, sleek and minimalist while somehow also warm and familiar. It’s like sitting in a friend’s living room—if their living room was effortlessly modern and tastefully decorated.

“Ristretto” is defined as “a short shot of espresso coffee made with the normal amount of ground coffee but extracted with about half the amount of water in the same amount of time by using a finer grind.” According to owner Johan Jo, it’s the sweetest part of the coffee—a meaning he was very aware of when choosing the name for the store.

“I want this to be the sweetest place in the area, a kind of lighthouse of sorts,” he said. “When people walk in here and experience whatever they do, I want it to be the happiest, most relaxing part of their day.”

Ristretto Lounge is a new addition to the Auburn-Opelika area. It has been open for only a little over 6 weeks, a feat that came after a lot of dedication and hard work. Jo himself oversaw every day of construction on the store.

“We worked every day for a year,” Jo said. “We never took a break. We opened up the shop the day after we finished construction.”

For just a few short weeks, the shop is already bustling with activity. On any given day, it’s filled with customers from all different walks of life, all enjoying a tasty drink from the shop’s espresso-based menu or a delicious French-inspired pastry. This diversity is a huge part of Jo’s vision for the store.

“We wanted to bring a different environment through coffee that resembles the diversity and unification that a lot of people miss out on,” he said. “Especially since Auburn-Opelika is such a melting pot of the south.”

The space reflects this diversity as well. In addition the downstairs area, where guests can order their drinks and relax, chat or do homework, there is also an upstairs area with conference rooms that can be rented for meetings of any type. The space is also used as a quiet study area, and Jo hopes to soon use it for hosting creativity-based workshops.

“I want this to be the most diverse collaboration hub—a big creative hub, to the point where even mainstream people hear about it and want to be part of a movement that’s happening in a small college town,” he said. “There’s so many creative people here, and I feel like they don’t have a platform to stand on. I want to give the community their own platform and open doors that I feel a lot of younger people miss out on.”

In the future, Jo hopes to expand the space to include its own roastery. He is also interested in offering a menu that includes healthier alternatives to sweets as well as a quick brunch menu. As far as the coffee goes, he’s concentrated on the classics—with a few store specialties thrown in, of course. 

For now, he and his employees are focused on crafting a space that will be beneficial to the community.

"We want this to be a place where people can laugh and cry,” said head barista Aubrey-Joy O’Brien. “We want it to be whatever it needs to be for the people who are in here.”

To learn more, follow Ristretto Lounge on Facebook.


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