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An electric blend of local arts and culture comes together in Roxborough’s newest coffee spot, Eremita Cafe.

Phil D’Agostino, its owner and operator, greets everyone who walks through the door. People sit on colorful chairs and couches reading, catching up, and co-working. “Everyone’s just hanging out here, and it’s cool,” he said. “It makes it feel more inviting.”

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D’Agostino is a longtime musician known in Philadelphia and across the country for his solo work and as a member of several bands, including Hezekiah Jones, Johnny Showcase and the Mystic Ticket, Wissahickon Chicken Shack and The Doublewides, as well as additional work as a bassist for other artists and bands. For close to a decade, he’s been putting the most time in as a bassist with Philadelphia-based Led Zeppelin tribute band Get the Led Out.

“With the exception of COVID, I’ve been on the road constantly for the last eight years at least, but even before that I was on the road a lot,” he said. But it’s a hard thing to do for a long time, so when D’Agostino found out that the space would be up for a new lease, he took the opportunity to start a new phase of his life. “Something told me I had to jump on it,” he said. “This place is an excuse to have the future be unwritten.”

D’Agostino has lived in Roxborough for over 20 years and is raising his kids here with his wife, Colleen Coyer, the owner of Poppy and Bean, a curated thrift shop across the street from Eremita. “I love how we’re all right here, and everything we need is within a few blocks,” he said.

His musical roots play a major role in the cafe itself, too. Eremita’s entire atmosphere, from the coffee smell to the furniture and decor, comes from people that D’Agostino has met on the local scene. “Everyone who touched it was a musician or artist of some kind,” he said.

One wall is covered in a bright mural by Alison Dilworth, a longtime friend of D’Agostino’s. The other features a series of illustrations by Birdie Busch. Ben Bass, a woodworker and furniture maker, made the cafe’s sign, tables, and countertops.

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Their coffee comes from Burlap and Bean in Media, Pennsylvania, and their tea comes from The Random Tea Room in Northern Liberties. “I’ve played music for both of them, and that’s how I got to know both of them,” D’Agostino said. “Those were always our two favorite places.”

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Those roots go even deeper when it comes to the cafe’s name. Eremita is Italian for hermit, a reference to some of Roxborough’s most intriguing legends.

“The folklore of this neighborhood is that it was settled by these hermits called the Kelpius Society, who were musicians and astronomers and poets,” D’Agostino explained. The group arrived in the Philadelphia area in 1694 and settled along the Wissahickon while awaiting the apocalypse. Their leader, Johannes Kelpius, actually gave Roxborough its name (then called Rocks-burrow) after he found foxes burrowing through his stone cellar. While the group disbanded in the early 1700s, their legacy remained, and many streets and structures in Roxborough contain the word ‘hermit’ as a result.

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D’Agostino is putting down roots and leaning away from the touring life, but isn’t leaving them behind. “I’m not looking to not be a musician any more or anything, I’m just looking to get something else going on,” he said. He plans to hold shows in the space, focusing on folk, jazz, and roots, as well as local singer/songwriters.

But, he will be stepping back from the spotlight. “I’m gonna allow the people who work here and the people who come here to make it what it is,” D’Agostino said. “I made the walls and the floors and everything else the way I wanted it to be, but I want the employees and the clientele to make it what it is. It’s to be determined.”

You can learn more about Eremita Cafe on Instagram at @eremitacafe or visit them in person at 5548 Ridge Avenue.