Photo via Killer E.S.P.'s Facebook
After a long day at work with an even longer commute ahead of you, it’s good to know that there are places where you can stop, rest and have a slice of pie or a scoop of home-made gelato with no judgment or formality.

Killer E.S.P. is an Alexandria, Va.-based coffee and tea shop with an owner that aims to skip the stuffiness of a typical ma’am or sir shop and instead moves forward to helping its customers explore new and unfamiliar options.

Owner Robert Shelton trains his staff in unconventional ways, teaching them to never say the words, “ma’am,” or “sir,” and to never, ever say “enjoy.”

“It’s such a cliché, cheesy term,” Shelton explained.
When Shelton opened up Killer E.S.P. in July 2011, he wanted to open “something different down there that wasn’t pretentious.”

If you’re curious about the name, there’s no real story about it. It’s just another example of Shelton wanting to be different.

“I wanted something that was kind of weird ... I kind of wanted something that smacked people in the face a little bit,” Shelton said, adding, “’Steve’s Coffee Shop’ or ‘Coffee Joint,’ I didn’t want to do anything like that.”

Shelton lived in southern California for more than a decade and wanted to “bring a slice of that feel back here, just laid-back and

Shelton added, “Everybody’s hustling in D.C. or Arlington. I just want to have a little place where people can just chill the hell out.”

To complement the chill attitude is a chill atmosphere with funky artwork hanging on the walls alongside license plates from California and Virginia. On one wall, a mural features Dali elephants and a flying spaghetti monster.

Above a refrigerator filled with pies, a sign reads, “Stuff your pie hole.” It’s a good mood kind of place with a quirky edge.

Photo via Killer E.S.P.'s Facebook
Welcoming, sweet and savory, the food is focused for those with a sweet tooth or in need of a caffeine buzz. There are two menus available: a loose tea menu and a pie menu. Also offered are empanadas and curry, as well as other sweet desserts like baklava, brownies and home-made gelato.

Originally, Shelton said his hope was for Killer E.S.P. to be a tea and juice bar, but grew the business to carry snacks and dishes from local businesses in the area.

Killer E.S.P. carries products from Washington, D.C.-based small businesses like Dangerously Delicious Pies and Julia’s Empanadas. Soon, Killer E.S.P. will start carrying products from District Donuts as well.

“I don’t want to cook,” said Shelton. “You think I’m going to sit there and cook a damn empanada? That’s not my skill. I don’t want to sit in a kitchen. I just want to say ‘hi’ to people and make them feel at home.”

Even though there is a variety of around 40 types of teas lining the shelves on one side of the business, Killer E.S.P. is still devoted to bringing the best coffee possible to the area. Their coffee comes straight from Portland, Oregon-based company Stumptown Coffee, making Killer E.S.P. the first east coast coffee shop out of New York to carry the brand.

Killer E.S.P. offers a happy hour for tea, though, to influence more people to try out unfamiliar teas imported from countries like China, Vietnam, Taiwan and more.

While discussing the numbers when it came to his business, there’s no doubt that Killer E.S.P. is doing killer in Alexandria’s business market.

With almost 20 percent growth every year, Shelton estimated that four out of every 10 people that enter the business is a new guest.

Photo via Killer E.S.P.'s Facebook
If you want to be a part of Killer E.S.P.’s growth and see why this tea and coffee shop is taking Old Town Alexandria by storm, visit the location at 1012 King Street. Learn more about the store at their website here. Be sure to follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

About Michelle Goldchain

Michelle is a photojournalist who loves to live life by never sitting still. You can find her in art galleries in Dupont Circle, ethnic restaurants in Adams Morgan and comedy clubs in Arlington. In her spare time, when she's not typing away at a computer screen, she's probably listening to moody electronic music, watching cat videos or doodling.
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  1. When I die I want to be stuffed with their Baltimore Bomber pie before I am dropped into the ground.