Interactive Coffee Shop Offers Oddities and Curiosities

Fractals Coffee Shop is filled with interactive toys and gadgets that run the gamut from virtual reality, functioning light sabers, and Van Der Graf machines to unlocker puzzles, floating inflatable sharks, and a 3-D sculpting pen

Amidst the growing West Asheville community – a known ‘mecca for originality’ – is a new addition to the scene – Fractals Coffee Shop. Located at 547 Haywood Rd in a signature orange building with its namesake – a fractal – painted on the side, and giant chess set in the parking lot, the coffee shop offers more than custom coffee drinks and a food menu.

As owner Nicholas Altman said, “I wanted to open a coffee shop that also had something interesting and intriguing – not necessarily a curiosities shop – but an opportunity for people to have an interactive experience.”

The experience Altman refers to is the ‘coffee with a twist’ part of Fractals – the shop is filled with interactive toys and gadgets that run the gamut from virtual reality, functioning light sabers, and Van Der Graf machines to unlocker puzzles, floating inflatable sharks, and a 3-D sculpting pen – all available for patrons to test, and some available for purchase.

Visitors can order a café au lait or latte (made with beans from resident Penny Cup Coffee Co.) and explore different interactive technologies that speak to Altman’s interests in exploring the unique, rare, and interactive. From antique Norse coins, a polygraph machine, and Vantablack paint (the darkest artificial substance known) to photos of fractals in nature – a series of geometric, repeating patterns – Fractals is more than a one stop shop.

In addition to the interactive ‘museum of oddities’ and exhibits, Altman has constructed a giant Connect Four set for patrons to play with, and has plans for future Connect Four tournaments, touting one of his staff members as undefeatable. If a customer loses to him, they win a free poem. A giant chess set sits in the parking lot, and future plans for a giant, interactive Lite-Brite wall – based on the children’s toy – are in the works.

Fractals also partners with local musicians to provide music lessons – including the unusual sousaphone – at ten dollars a class (contact Fractals or stop by for information on what classes are currently available),and provides chess lessons using the outdoor set.

The coffee shop component offers a menu of traditional café beverages, and a food menu that includes desserts, soup, salads, and sandwiches (including vegan-friendly options), in addition to a kids menu that offers staples such as peanut butter and jelly and grilled cheese, adding to the family-inclusive atmosphere of the space. On Sundays, from 8 a.m. to noon, the café offers a Sunday brunch and order of short stack pancakes made with a Robot Pancake Chef, Pancake Bot 2.0 (a pancake making machine that dispenses batter in the shapes of customizable designs).

“Fractals, really, at its heart, isn’t a coffee shop. It’s an interactive experience, something which you have to see to believe. Its everything you wanted as a kid, every strange idea that came into your head back then, brought to life now,” said Altman.

For more information about Fractals – including current interactive exhibits, a food and drink menu, and contact information, please visit www.fractalscoffee.com or follow them online at facebook.com/FractalsCoffee/

By Whitney Cooper