The founders of Brick + Mortar in Wilmington share their secrets to coffee, hand-crafted goods and appreciating the finer things in life.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Megan Deitz
First-timers bouncing down North 4th Street on a Saturday afternoon may be surprised when they find out what’s flowing from Brick + Mortar’s nitro taps. Sure, it’s dark and rich, comes with a frothy cap and bears a surprisingly smooth finish, but it’s not a stout. It’s not even beer—and the only buzz you’ll get is an elevated level of caffeine.
Having spent all of my Wilmington years nestled in the Brooklyn Arts District — NOFO, to be exact — I was elated at the announcement of Brick + Mortar’s arrival last year. There was a lot of gossip around the ’hood, but I wasn’t sure if they were selling lattes, lagers or motorcycles. When I realized that coffee was on deck, I mistakenly assumed they were pumping out trendy cold brew simply because it was the hip thing to do. It wasn’t until I sat down with co-owners Jeff Bridgers and Logan Tudor that I discovered I had completely missed the point.
Picture this: two North Brunswick High School outsiders going from punk rock buddies to partners of a wildly successful, entirely self-invested business of handcrafted goods and supplies. Brick + Mortar’s foundation is built on the story of longtime friends who were simply looking to express their artistic abilities under one roof. Let’s step back in time, shall we?
Bridgers’ bona fide interest in welding sparked around the youthful age of 18. His pursuit of blacksmithing technically came from his roots, but in an untraditional way (there was no passing down of a family trade). His dad was a blacksmith by profession, but this versatile hobby struck Bridgers’ interest as more of a passion. Just as chefs crave standing over a fiery stove, metalsmiths find a similar peace in being surrounded by hot metal and blowtorches. Bridgers’ shop, Black Heat Forge, became his sanctuary for hammering away at his ironwork. The result? Elegant, one-of-a-kind objects that most of us couldn’t even manifest with our minds. Bridgers sports an epic beard and mustache and was soon inspired to produce a new caliber of handmade specialties — the Forge & Foundry line of handmade men’s grooming products.
But Bridgers wasn’t the only craftsman keeping faces looking sharp in the Port City. A stay-at-home dad and touring musician, Tudor began fiddling around with woodworking as a pastime. This quickly turned into a second source of income as the demand for his artisan-made grooming goods, from stunning tobacco pipes to electric shave brushes, surged on the Internet. Customers of Tudor’s online portal, Lowborn Supply, became infatuated with the woodworker’s high-quality designs.
When Bridgers and Tudor reconnected and joined forces to sell their goods at a small market held by Palate Bottle Shop & Reserve, their success led to the realization that Wilmington had an eager audience in search of motorcycles, cigars and upscale products for men.
Their collaboration began as a retail emporium—a West Coast–inspired, unpretentious, moto-themed spot where Bridgers and Tudor could exhibit their brands as well as those of their gifted friends who were also creating specialty goods worthy of being displayed somewhere sturdy. “Some of the items might seem a bit out of the ordinary, but, hey, weird is in,” Bridgers proclaims.
The duo perused several Wilmington locations but ultimately landed on the up-and-coming north end of 4th Street, where businesses had already begun to flourish. Things took shape faster than either was expecting and suddenly they had an empty store to fill. But then again, we are talking about two dudes who materialize ideas by building them with their hands. Nearly everything (from tables to chairs and beyond) in Brick + Mortar carries Bridgers’ and Tudor’s spirit and is an incarnation of their skillsets.
As their soft opening in April 2016 approached, they decided they needed an additional concept to draw people in to hang out and browse the merchandise. Putting his past talents to good use, Tudor, who used to install craft-beer systems, landed on cold-brewed, nitrogen-infused coffee. After thoughtfully picking out one of Lativa Coffee Co.’s roasts as the exclusive bean of choice (and after much trial and error), Tudor calculated the ideal equation for producing the perfect cup. “As cigar smokers, we were chasing a flavor,” Bridgers says about the process.
Brick + Mortar’s seemingly scientific cold-brew process took several attempts to perfect. As it turns out, craft coffee requires just as much rigorous shaping as a hop-heavy, citrus-on-the-nose, juicy-on-the-finish IPA.
For those of you in this mainly for the caffeine high, here are the basics. There’s one roast and one brewing method. The hardest decision you’ll make about Brick + Mortar’s coffee is hot or cold.
Because the shop owners encourage an uncomplicated lifestyle, they formulated drinks that stood for simplicity. But, for those in need of a matcha-this or mocha-that, there’s a minimal lineup of lattes and specialty drinks to get your fix. Grab a growler and fill it up to your heart’s desire. Craft cocktail nerds (myself included) go gaga for KGB’s Bananas in Pajamas concoction, which features B+M’s concentrate. Bridgers and Tudor have even teamed up with other food-and-drink fan favorites (like Flytrap Brewery for a Coffee Stout collaboration and Boombalatti’s for a righteous ice cream) to spread the local love. Psst: Ask about the Cereal Killer. Trust me.
Brick + Mortar is about appreciating the beauty of American handmade culture. For busy humans caught up in the bustling world of social media, it’s a place to take the time to breathe in some of the most basic parts of life. “Sure, you can quickly trim your beard with one hand while flipping through your Instagram feed with the other, but I believe there’s a romance in shaving,” Bridgers says. He says that this practice, along with the simple act of packing a pipe or smoking a cigar, can be somewhat of a meditation.
Brick + Mortar isn’t just another characterless shop doling out cappuccinos and insignificant objects for purchase. It’s a sacred space handcrafted by two old souls who want nothing more than to share with Wilmington how they slow down and savor the world.
Want to go?
Brick + Mortar Goods Coffee & Goods
1005 North 4th Street, Wilmington