Even before the pandemic, there wasn’t much activity on Arlington Avenue in the South Side Slopes.

The opening of Hilltop Coffee in the long-dormant business district is creating a buzz.

For the past nine months,  the husband-and-wife team of Dan Gladis and Jami Szalla have poured their hearts into transforming an old HVAC shop into a quaint café where folks can have a hot beverage and a good conversation. It’ll make its debut at 2400 Arlington Ave. at the end of November.

It’s only the second business established in the area in 20 years, joining Eggs & Moore diner as the new kids on the busway.

Photo by Carmen Swasey.

“We always knew we wanted to start our own business,” says Szalla, who grew up in the neighborhood. “We saw the diner go in and do really well. We wanted to give our community another cool place to go.”

The 430-square-foot space will have seating for 10, a large coffee counter and homey décor with a hint of urban decay.

Hilltop will serve Creative Coffee & Supply products. Based Downtown at 309 Smithfield Street, the roastery and coffee shop uses sustainably sourced beans from small farms in Colombia, Ethiopia and Tanzania. It opened a little over a year ago and has been making community connections ever since. Creative Coffee & Supply is planning to open a second location in Bloomfield as part of a collaboration with Mindful Brewing Company.

“Jami and Dan are fantastic people and we are very much looking forward to working with them as they open their space,” says Carmen Swasey, owner of Creative Coffee & Supply.

In addition to coffee, Hilltop will serve pastries from nearby 350° Bakery.

The entire process — from construction and design to menu creation — has been a team effort, says the couple, something beautiful that’s come of an ugly Covid situation.

“Our community has been wonderfully supportive,” Gladis says. “We’ve got good folks on our side.”