Marriott City Center’s CoCo and the Director is Both Coffee Shop and Co-Lab

Coco and the Director
Photos by Jamey Price

Charlotte’s newest coffee shop in Uptown is drawing attention for its eccentric style and delicious coffee—and its name. Coco and the Director evokes a newer wave in Charlotte’s coffee scene, one that feels more in line with New York City or Philadelphia, maybe. Located at the intersection of Trade and Tryon, it boasts vaulted ceilings and a vendor’s market vibe. There’s coffee here, of course, but this space—the first independent coffee house in Marriott’s re-branding series—promotes connection, community, and collaboration.

Jordan Spaller, who manages Coco and the Director describes the shop as “a gathering place for the locals, out of towers, and entrepreneurs for both social and business purposes [where] all who participate benefit through shared learning.”

This leaves you as the director. You set the scene. Sean Porter, Director of Food and Beverage, explains that “when you’re in our space, you take the direction that you want to take and the creativity that you want to take.”

Coco and the Director
Coco and the Director

The scene at Coco and the Director falls in line with a broader shift in workplace design. Many companies have begun replacing odious, groan-inducing cubicle farms with dynamic workspaces that look more like Scandinavian elementary school playgrounds than Fortune 500 businesses. The theory behind this trend connects engaging, energetic spaces with increased motivation and communication. Quite simply, people think better, work faster, and feel happier when they’re in an exciting and open environment.

At Coco, a banquette with individual tables lines the street-facing window while a community table acts as the centerpiece of the floor. The stadium seating, accented by plush lamb-print pillows, adds to the coffee shop’s quirky ethos. Chalk art races along the walls. But Coco’s best surprise is a collaborative meeting room available to anyone.

Coco and the Director

Coco and the Director works with Forte Legato Coffee, a roasting company out of Fort Mill, South Carolina. Forte Legato’s founder, Nick Peñaloza, began the company six years ago while living in San Francisco. Though he drank coffee every day, he despaired over the burnt quality of many national chains’ coffee. At the behest of his wife, Nick researched home roasting methods, jerry-rigged a popcorn maker, and discovered a new passion.

“That first roast was a Brazilian Cerrado, and I could tell caramel notes in there, a little bit of vanilla, and I was sold,” he recalls. “The whole thing about Forte Legato is ‘forte,’ loud or strong, and ‘legato,’ smooth and connected.”

Sean underscores the importance of connecting with local businesses in and around Charlotte. Rather than partner with national chains, Marriott used its “powers for good [to] support the local guy who’s starting his coffee roasting company.”

In addition to coffee, Coco and the Director carries pastries like flaky chocolate croissants and danishes from Renaissance Patisserie; the beverage display features every variety of water you could need; and Stoke Restaurant’s culinary team creates daily sandwiches for a delicious lunch option. Prints, greeting cards, and leather goods fill shelves and carts.

Coco and the Director
Coco’s smoked brisket sammy

“One of the major aspects of Coco is the retail piece,” Jordan notes. “We traveled all over Charlotte and the surrounding areas to find even more product for the shop. We visited local gift shops and even antique yards!”

Coco and the Director hosts Wine and Color Wednesdays, where people can enjoy a glass of wine while they sketch masterpieces, and Final-e Fridays, which kick off the weekends with evening acoustic sets and tall boys. Jordan plans to facilitate more events and partnerships.

“We are currently working with several vendors around town to drive community involvement,” he says. “In the future, we hope to offer health and wellness sessions by partnering with a local personal trainer.”

Jordan also mentioned a tentative pop-up market in front of the shop and Marriott’s recent partnership with TED Talks, which would lead to more creative events in Charlotte. The future for Coco and the Director looks excitingly bright.

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