“Local supporting local”: Whitman parent to open coffee shop in Bethesda


Photo courtesy Andrea Joseph Photography

Whitman parent Janet Forlini works on designing her coffee shop Clove and Cedar Coffee Bar. The shop will open around mid-May in Bethesda’s Woodmont triangle.

By Meera Dahiya

In her 50s, Whitman parent Janet Forlini’s mother switched careers, and in an effort to serve her community, bought out and revamped the town’s local newspaper. Inspired by her mom, Forlini is transitioning from her current career in law to creating a community space in Bethesda: a local coffee shop.

Forlini will open Clove and Cedar Coffee Bar June in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle. The shop will have a classic but trendy vibe and will feature specialty coffee, an increasingly popular type of high quality Arabica coffee. As part of its focus on community, Clove and Cedar will also partner with other local businesses and nonprofits.

“I see the value of being part of the community fabric,” Forlini said. “You can bring people together and create connections.”

Instead of cooking food in-house, Clove and Cedar will source food from other local small businesses like Soupergirl, Red Bandana and Henry’s Sweet Retreat. The coffee beans will come from Ceremony Coffee, a local coffee roaster. On the drinks menu, Clove and Cedar will have single origin coffee, a house blend, cold brew coffee and espresso drinks.

As a lawyer, Forlini specialized in public policy, working for the government and various nonprofit organizations. But she’d always thought about becoming an entrepreneur, her daughter Julia, a junior, said. After noticing the development of the specialty coffee industry, she decided to start her own shop instead. Bethesda was the perfect place to open a coffee shop because there were no other specialty coffee shops in the area, Forlini said. A couple of years ago, Forlini left her previous job to put in all of her effort into creating Clove and Cedar.

Forlini has been working on the project for two years, consulting with other local business owners, attending meetings across the country and continuously researching. Although the work is hard, the results are fulfilling, she said.

“Every day she’s doing new things and meeting new people,” Julia said. “But I don’t think she’s that stressed about it—she’s more excited.”

Clove and Cedar is also partnering with a composting company, Compost Crew, started by Whitman graduates Ryan Walter (‘11) and Bryan Flores (‘11) to maintain environmental sustainability. The new coffee shop will have Whitman, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Walter Johnson school newspapers in stock and artwork on the walls to inform people about community happenings.

“Showcasing Whitman students’ work will create a place that makes people feel like they are a part of something,” Julia said. “It will draw people in and show them their kids are part of this community.”

Forlini designed Clove and Cedar to be a place where students can study comfortably; Julia advised her on what teens would want to see in a study space, like WiFi, outlets and long tables.

The space will be a blend of modern and vintage. On the modern end, the shop will feature a navy blue espresso machine and dark wood tables. To create a vintage, cozy feel, Forlini will put up older images of Bethesda to remind customers of the town’s history.

“Coffee can transcend time and generations, because it’s been around for centuries—but I’ll be having specialty coffee, which is very modern,” Forlini said. “That’s what I love about coffee. It’s been around a long time, but there’s more to learn.”

Forlini also plans to partner with local nonprofits and give a certain percentage of profits to one of these organizations each month. Forlini wants to showcase the philanthropic work of community members.

“People in Bethesda are very generous and giving,” she said. “They want to learn about the organizations in our community, and this can be an opportunity to showcase what’s happening in our own community and give people an easy way to give back.”

The tagline of the coffee shop is “local supporting local.” Forlini bought a relatively large space so that community members will have a place to spend time and connect, rather than just grab a coffee and go.

“I just really love this community,” Forlini said. “People are really engaged and interested in what’s happening in the community. A coffee shop can be a gathering spot for discussion.”