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Millis Clicquot Coffee /VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories

Millis Clicquot Coffee Caffeinates Dining Out Scene in Millis, Massachusetts

Coffee by day, cocktails and jazz music by night, this welcoming, cozy modern spot offers a touch of New York City in one of the smallest suburbs of Boston

Dining area at Millis Clicquot Coffee in Millis, Massachusetts.
Dining area at Millis Clicquot Coffee.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 2/14/2020.

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New York City native Alan Sky is in a Millis state of mind.

Trading in the bright lights and big city thrills of The Big Apple for bright stars under the big sky, Alan recently opened Millis Clicquot Coffee in Millis, Mass. 
His charming downtown spot features a vintage-style coffee and cocktail lounge with organic coffee, craft cocktails, light meals, homemade baked goods brought in fresh from George's Bakery in Medford, Mass. and live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 7-10 p.m. with a concentration on jazz music.  Hakeem Law, who has played with The Drifters and The Platters and served as a private instructor at The Berklee College of Music in Boston, Mass., takes front and center stage as the house musician within a classic piano bar setting.

.Jazz music at Millis Clicquot Coffee in Millis, Mass.
Hakeem Law. Photo credit: Millis Clicquot Coffee.

"Many times at other places, people find it hard to talk over the music," said Sky. "Here, people talking are the loudest thing in the room. We take into account ambiance and atmosphere."

Sky knew the challenges of opening a business in a small town specializing in coffee but passionately forged ahead with his vision that clearly goes far beyond offering a cup of joe. 

"The sign says coffee bar but what does that really mean?," said Sky. "We are certainly not like the chains. In this area, you have Dunkin' Donuts, Starbucks and long-established locally-owned places... and it's difficult to compete with them. Our prices are not inexpensive, It's high-quality organic. We provide an experience. Not just coffee but cocktails, small plates and entertainment. It's working out well. The town is changing and has shown major support for what we are doing."

A cup of coffee from Millis Clicquot Coffee in Millis, Mass.
A cup of high-quality coffee.

Millis Clicquot Coffee uses a La Marzocco espresso machine which is like a "classic Ferrari of coffee machines" according to Sky. The sourcing is key, using Stone Street Coffee, a prominent artisinal coffee roaster out of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Stone Street Coffee roasts the coffee and delivers it to Millis Clicquot Coffee overnight, much to the delight of Millis area residents.

Coffee display at Millis Clicquot Coffee in Millis, MA.
Stone Street Coffee display.


Millis Clicquot Coffee offers French-pressed dark roast (Sumatra from Indonesia), medium roast (Columbian blend) and light roast (Guatemalan), as well as espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, macchiatos, cortados, mochas, and caramels. In the evening, drinks like the Irish coffees and espresso martinis take the spirited evening shift, along with the impressive offerings of crafted cocktails.

Cocktail from Millis Clicquot Coffee Bar, Millis, MA.\
Cocktail from Millis Clicquot Coffee Bar. Photo credit: Millis Clicquot Coffee.


Astonishingly, this address most recently housed a Subway sandwich shop. As the ultimate expression of an extreme restaurant makeover, no traces of that chain exist in the new digs with the exception of the original Subway door. The high wood ceiling with modern fans, skylights, sparkling wood floors, sofa chairs, hanging lights and a breakfast/bar section with counter and stools add up to something sophisticated but, at the same, time, warm and inviting. It's a place to stay for a while as opposed to a quick Subway ride to the fast food counter.

"We gutted every millimeter of the space and it took about a year to transform it," said Sky. "Everything here is brand new."

The modern setting provides an interesting juxtaposition to an older version of Millis seen from outside a window...

An inviting dining room section at Millis Clicquot Coffee in Millis, Mass.
Modern interior, and the small town look of Millis outside the window.
 
"There's a very specific flow to the culture here being very different that what I am used to -- coming for the city that never sleeps," said Sky. "But it is working out very well. I love it here. The community is so welcoming. You get to know people quickly. We see regulars. This has become an outlet for many people on the weekends -- a place they can get away to for a while and leisurely enjoy the experience."

Whether on the weekend or a quieter but still busy weekday, Millis Clicquot Coffee has a personality of its own with various factors creating a fabulous experience.

"With the live music going and the food and drink, it is really exciting to see this type of music cafe here in Millis," said Sky.

The Inspiration Behind Millis Clicquot Coffee

Alan Sky, owner of Millis Clicquot Coffee talks with a customer at the bar.
Sky meets with a customer.

Several years ago, a cousin of Sky's opened Bathtub Gin in New York City, a popular 9th Avenue 1920s speakeasy-style gin joint known for its cocktails, whiskeys, coffees, dinners, brunch and entertainment. Sky -- working as a partner and expert barista -- found the experience rewarding and with many connections made along the way including celebrities like Ethan Hawke, Kelsey Grammer and Alan Cummings frequenting the place.

One connection, however, resonated more than anyone else to Sky. A security guard introduced "this girl, Layla" from Dover, Mass. to Sky. They fell in love, ended up marrying and having a child. Layla wanted to live closer to home, so they moved to Millis -- one town away from Dover. The move resulted in a bit of a culture shock for Sky, moving from a city of 8.6 million to a semi-rural town of about 8,000.

Route 109 in Millis, Massachusetts.
Route 109 in Millis.
 
Sky found the town charming, friendly and with shifting demographics potentially beneficial to opening a business. Every few years, a Boston suburb is "discovered" and Millis is riding that wave right now as a pleasant, safe, relatively affordable place to live. It's a town where scenic wide open spaces peacefully co-exist with a solid economic development plan -- and neither entity getting in the way of each other. Millis Clicquot Coffee is right in the middle of that exciting transformation as a type of business that Millis has not seen before.

"We wanted to have that Bathtub Gin type of vibe" said Sky, of Millis Clicquot Coffee. "We do have the bagels and coffee in the day but on weekend nights, you kind of have this jazz club cafe type of place with candles, jazz playing and a focus on the 1920s type cocktails."

An evening scene at Millis Clicquot Coffee Bar in Millis, MA.
Evening ambiance. Photo credit: Millis Clicquot Coffee.

The History Behind the Name

Millis Clicquot Coffee pays homage to the famous beverage company that once graced Millis, Massachusetts.
A retro Clicquot Ginger Ale graces the wall at Millis Clicquot Coffee.

Sky possesses an interest in history and a thirst for knowledge, which is reflected in the Millis Clicquot Coffee name. Clicquot Club Company, with its former headquarters in Millis, once reigned as one of the largest beverage companies in the world. Founded in 1881, Clicquot first became well known for selling sparkling cider called Clicquot -- named after the famous French Champagne, Veuve Clicquot.

The company eventually stopped selling the sparkling cider and focused more on soft drinks, most notably its ginger ale made from Jamaican ginger and Cuban pure refined sugar. Cott bought the company in 1965 but the more prominent soft drink companies we know today eventually caused Clicquot/Cott to fizz out and close in 1980. Canada Dry eventually bought Cott but the original Clicquot name never again sparkled the soft drink industry, It was quite a blow to the town, as many residents worked at the one-third of a mile building that even had its own train stop.

Very few people know this but Millis also once served as a resort getaway town for Bostonians in the early 20th century. The fresh air, rural feel, its scenic presence on the Charles River (yes, the same one that you see in Boston and Cambridge) and close proximity to the city provided a welcome respite from the faster pace and more dense population. It still does, but here is in the 21st century that means residing in the town and often commuting to more populated areas for work.

The Charles River off Route 109 in Millis, Massachusetts.
The Charles River in Millis.

Sky coined the name Millis Clicquot Coffee as an ode to the town's storied history. He, however, experienced a brief hiccup with the restaurant's name that no one could have ever predicted. While Sky enthusiastically grew his business in the town he had come to love, one of the world's largest luxury corporations, unexpectedly in late 2019, served a cease-and-desist letter for Alan to use the Clicquot name. Veuve Clicquot, a French Champagne company with ownership of luxury brands like Tiffany and Luis Vuitton, told Sky that they needed exclusivity with its name. It didn't make sense to Sky as there is even a census-designated Clicquot-Millis neighborhood in town with its name being fully intact for generations.

For a small business owner like Sky, this meant potentially changing the LLC, website, social media pages, marketing materials and its $4k sign. He thought about closing for a while and rebranding the business.

"It was basically France against us," said Sky. "They are a huge company."

Fortunately,
Veuve Clicquot had a change of heart and a resolution was reached that allowed Alan to keep the Millis Clicquot name.

"We hugged and everything is good now," said Alan. "We will not be changing anything and we are happy for that. Yeah, it's a relief!"

The menu

Sandwich from Millis Clicquot Coffee Bar in Millis, Mass.
Chicken quesadilla. Photo credit; Millis Clicquot Coffee.

The menu is still developing with a focus on foods ideally complementing the coffees and cocktails.  Currently, Millis Clicquot Coffee specializes in wraps and crepes (including ham and cheese and Nutella and jam!) with some of the signature menu items to center around
Caprese, tuna and chicken salads, turkey and cheese and smoked salmon Boursin cheese. Stay tuned for updates!

Here is the planned menu for the near future...

Cheese plates
Charcuterie
Chips and soft cheese spread (Boursin)

Slider sampler
Caprese
Tuna
Chicken salad

Salads
Arugula mix greens strawberries salad
Greek salad
Mixed green avocado
Mixed greens garden apple

Add a topping: walnut cranberry chicken salad
Chilled roasted chicken
White tuna
Willow Tree Chicken salad

Soup of the day
Kettle One Cuisine
Tomato
Chowder
Apple butternut

Sandwiches
Tuna melt with tomato and cheese
Chicken salad with shredded lettuce tomato
Honey ham and cheese with shredded lettuce, tomato onion, spicy brown mustard, Caprese focaccia
Prosciutto with roasted pepper, tomato, Caprese, mixed greens, balsamic glaze
Quesedilla - Chopped chicken, cheese, tomato
Quesedilla - Veggies with cheese


Dessert
Cannoli
Tiramisu


Millis Clicquot Coffee also offers excellent muffins created by George's Bakery...

Banana nut muffin from Millis Clicquot Coffee in Millis, , Mass.
Banana Nut Muffin.


and breakfast sandwiches...

Bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel from Millis Clicquot Coffee.
Bacon, egg and cheese on a bagel.

The Exciting Future Ahead for Millis Clicquot Coffee

Sky has smartly taken a little bit of the city and wonderfully gifted it to Millis in the form of a dining and drinking establishment. He recognizes Millis' glorious past and has incorporated it into Millis Clicquot Coffee whether it be paying tribute to the soda company or its former presence as a resort town. That last element draws an important nexus: Alan wants Millis Clicquot Coffee to serve as a respite from the world, a temporary but memorable getaway and an overall relaxing place to be. "I want to tie into history like Bathtub Gin has done in New York City," said Alan. "Here, we have a warm, connected community in Millis that has been evolving. A long time ago, this was a resort town, you had the Clicquot factory, a shoe factory and farms. Millis is still developing. So are we, trying to reflect the growth of the town. And the town has welcomed us so nicely."

Millis Clicquot Coffee is located at 1060 Main St. (Route 109), Millis MA. Tel. (508) 376-9000.

Web site:
https://www.millisclicquot.com/


Facebook fan page:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Bar/Millis-Clicquot-Coffee-Bar-100953838078575



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More local small business reading:
Oliva's Market, Milford, Mass.
Winsmith Mill Market, Norwood, Mass.





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