Erica Zito and Mary Button spent three years planning and saving before opening The Lola Bean last September at 1325 Frankford Avenue in Fishtown. To create the modern shop the way Zito and Button wanted required a lot of work, most of which the girls did with their own hands. Button left her full-time job and spent every day working on creating the shop, something that took more than six months to complete, even with the help of neighborhood friends and the girls’ families. “We learned how to lay floor, lay tile and use tools we didn’t even know the name of before,” laughs Zito.

“We built out the space and worked hard to create an environment that would attract all types of people” says Zito of the sleek coffee house. Button redid much of the furniture, which was bought used. The details that went into this labor of love don’t stop with the design, however. Each morning Zito and Button prepare their own house-made sandwiches, salads, hummus platters and other take-out plates in addition to the La Colombe coffee, Au Fournil french pastries and other items from other local bakers Lola carries. Lola carries vegan and vegetarian items, and change their sandwiches and salads with each season (in the fall and winter they offer homemade soups instead of the salads). Lola has stood out from the crowd in the Fishy with items like their hard-boiled egg sandwich with cheese and a fig-arugula spread, the maple-lentil salad served over spinach, and the turkey and cheddar sandwich with caramelized onion on country white bread.

Zito and Button chose to open their shop in Fishtown because that was the neighborhood closest to their hearts. “We have lived here for 5 1/2 years and really have grown attached to the change and potential we see in the neighborhood,” explains Zito. “The neighbors here have been so supportive of new business and have nurtured the growth of our business greatly.” The girls speak highly of the Fishy and its inhabitants, and loyally work with community fundraisers and events like Frankford Avenue’s First Friday. “The greatest thing I find about the shop is the immense sense of community that has formed there,” says Zito. “So many of our customers have become friends, exchanged business ideas, and made neighborly relationships with people they would have not otherwise.”

Until the end of May, The Lola Bean has a jewelry show going on, which includes three Fishtown jewelry lines: Branch Designs, Gray Knife Designs and Kensington Supply Co. They will be featuring a new artist every month and hope to expand the menu in the coming months to include flavor cream cheeses and other vegan items. —-Caitlin Connors