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October 01, 2023

Fishtown's Milkcrate Cafe expands its unique coffee-and-vinyl-records shop concept to West Philly

The hip neighborhood staple celebrates 14 years in business with a new location on Baltimore Ave, plus new plans for brunch and cocktail nights

Food & Drink Coffee Shops
Milkcrate-Cafe-Fishtown-3.jpg John Paul Titlow/for PhillyVoice

Milkcrate Cafe, a combination coffee shop and vinyl record boutique that has operated in Fishtown since 2009, opened its second location on Baltimore Ave. in West Philly on Sept. 28. The cafe is also expanded the nighttime 'Vinyl Bar' cocktail lounge that it has spent several months perfecting at its recently renovated Fishtown location, shown above.

One of Fishtown's most unique and enduring neighborhood staples is expanding west. Milkcrate Cafe – a combination coffee shop and vinyl record boutique that has operated at Girard and Columbia avenues since 2009 – opened its second location at 45th Street and Baltimore Ave in West Philadelphia on Sept. 28.

The West Philly version of Milkcrate will operate much like the original: As an expertly-curated vinyl record store that also serves coffee roasted by La Colombe and a menu of music-themed food items, such as breakfast sandwiches like the Notorious E.G.G. and the Bagella Fitzgerald and lunch options like the Run B.L.T. and the Rick Rueben. 

Both stores will also sell turntables and other Hi-Fi home audio gear and will also buy select used vinyl records from customers. 

"This is the right space and this is the time," said Milkcrate owner Adam Porter of his decision to expand his business to West Philly. "There's an energy there that's unparalleled and that is different from any other part of the city. I don't think people really understand the energy that's in West Philly."  

In addition to opening its new location, Milkcrate is also expanding other aspects of its business that Porter and his team have been tinkering with in recent months. Starting in October, Milkcrate will start hosting brunch events on Saturdays and Sundays and extend the 'Vinyl Bar' nighttime cocktail lounge concept it started experimenting with earlier this year. 

"We wanted a place where we could be able to spin music through a wonderful Hi-Fi sound system and have this really cool cocktail lounge," Porter said.  

Expanding westward and into the night: Milkcrate's double shot of growth

First launched in June 2023, Milkcrate's Vinyl Bar is an extension of its traditional business that effectively transforms Milkcrate's bustling daytime coffee shop vibe into more of a chill cocktail lounge with local DJs spinning vinyl records from 8 p.m. until midnight. After testing out the Vinyl Bar concept on Fridays and Saturdays at the Fishtown location over the last few months, Porter said it will extended to Wednesday and Thursday nights and get started a few hours earlier and run from 5 p.m. to midnight.

"The challenge has been doing these things simultaneously," Porter said. "It's not only opening one business, it's like opening two businesses at the same time."

Starting in 2022, Milkcrate was able to add beer, wine and cocktails to its menu – and start toying with the Vinyl Bar idea – after acquiring its first-ever liquor license during the pandemic. After what Porter admitted was "a rocky start" trying to navigate a whole new aspect of the business, he said he then consulted many of his peers and other local business owners to help him fine-tune the boozier nighttime aspect of Milkcrate's future. 

At the same time, Porter's years-long desire to expand Milkcrate into West Philly finally became possible thanks to the availability of a newly-vacant retail space on Baltimore Ave. 

"There's something about the ample amount of trees and the lack of new condos there." Porter said. "There's old architecture, old homes and people that have lived there their entire lives. There's also this international energy coming in from the college students. It's very different from any other part of city and I think it's underserved." 

For the time being, the West Philly Milkcrate will keep shorter hours, opening at 9 a.m. and closing at 1 p.m. everyday, with the shop expected to extend its hours sometime in the fall. The Fishtown location will continue to stay open until 3 p.m. on weekdays and 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. 

Milkcrate's Vinyl Bar will be open at its Fishtown location from 5 p.m. to midnight every Wednesday to Saturday, with DJs and other nighttime event programming announcements to come. The Fishtown shop will host an album release party for Philly musician Emily Robb on October 14.