The sun shines through the windows onto a best-seller that sits open next to magazines on a knee-high glass table. Music emanates from a stereo while the scent of vanilla from flickering candles intertwines with the wafting aroma of freshly brewed coffee.
Just another relaxing afternoon in one of the thousands of living rooms in Silver Spring, right?
Well, sort of. This scenario is repeated daily just a short walk from downtown Silver Spring at at Zed’s Café, located at 8225 Georgia Ave.
When owner Zed Mekonnen opened his eponymous coffee shop on June 11, 2011, this was exactly the scene he had pictured in his head while planning his business.
“I worked for corporate America for a long time, and as a mortgage broker for the past 15 years,” says Mekonnen. “When the housing bubble broke, I knew I needed to do something different, something laid back and relaxed.”
Relying on the lessons he learned about the importance of atmosphere and customer service while tending bar in Washington, DC, Zed chose Silver Spring (where he also lives) to open the kind of place he always wanted to frequent.
Zed’s lives up to its motto “One Big Living Room,” with comfy couches and chairs, candles, knickknacks, books, magazines and board games adorning the surprisingly large space, which Mekonnen smiles widely about when describing “The people in Silver Spring are like the furnishings here – diverse and wonderful!”
The artwork is integral to the Zed’s experience, coming from local artists, and changing on a monthly basis.
“You appreciate art the longer it is up, seeing things you’ve never seen before,” says Mekonnen. “Customers really seem to like the fact that it changes all the time and I get a new interior without having to renovate each month!”
Food and beverage options are what one would expect at a neighborhood coffee shop – a variety of hot and iced coffees, desserts, teas and even fresh-made smoothies. Zed’s business is brisk, serving between 165-180 patrons on an average day. Mekonnen does his best to cater his offerings to his customers, and plans to add sandwiches, light salads, breakfast sandwiches and possibly wine in the near future.
Zed’s is rapidly becoming the go-to spot in Silver Spring for many Montgomery College students, including Alex Getahun who has been frequenting Zed’s since it opened last summer.
“I love the atmosphere, there is no other place like it,” Alex said. “Sometimes I come to study, sometimes just to hang out with friends, but I know I can always count on Zed to do the right thing – on a bad day he can make me laugh, but every day he can make the perfect cup of coffee.”
Zed’s Café is located at 8225 Georgia Avenue, and is open Monday – Friday from 7 a.m. – 10 p.m., Saturday, 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.