At 6 a.m. Monday, Tommy Joyner and Jamie Lokoff finally swung open the doors to their long-awaited, one-of-a-kind, java-and-booze-with-music MilkBoy Coffee emporium in Center City and encountered something that has largely eluded them for much of the last 10 months: labor peace.
It lasted roughly one hour.
By 7 a.m., carpenters' union members, furious that the new MilkBoy outlet at 11th and Chestnut Streets had been rehabbed by nonunion workers, were picketing outside the main doors - just as they had done at the original MilkBoy in Ardmore.
By Tuesday, Day Two, Philadelphia police had been called to the site to sort the whole thing out.
Despite the kerfuffle, Lokoff and Joyner insist their high-profile dispute with the carpenters will be just a minor and annoying sideshow to a kind of venue that Philadelphia has never seen before, one that offers premium coffees, music from up-and-coming local bands - and a liquor license.
"It's not about them anymore. It's about us. Yesterday, our first day, was packed," said Lokoff, 45, the blonder and older of the music-producer/coffeehouse/bar-owning partners.
Added Joyner, 40: "We did double what we did our first day in Ardmore" five years ago.
It almost didn't happen. On June 17 at 4:30 p.m., an hour after workers had left, a fire broke out at the front of the building, igniting butcher paper covering the windows and causing minimal damage.
The fire marshal determined it was arson. As for who set the fire, "They don't know," Joyner said. "We called the fire marshal, and we didn't get a call back."
As in the past, Edward Coryell Sr., president of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America in Philadelphia, did not return calls for comment about MilkBoy.
It has been two years since Joyner and Lokoff - card-carrying union musicians who also own a recording studio in Ardmore - were approached by U3 Ventures, a city-based development company, about opening a cafe across from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. The place had been vacant for 10 years.
After 18 months of renovations, the chic new venue opened Monday for coffee, drinks, and snacks. Musical acts and a full menu will be served up after Labor Day.
The partners concede they were naive about working in the city, where licensing rules delayed the project for months. They ended up going into debt to cover the cost overruns.
"We feel really good about this place and feel it will generate enough cash to pay back the debt," Joyner said.
To cut costs, they built some of the tables themselves and scavenged for used lights and other furnishings to decorate the two-story space, which has exposed-brick walls and retractable garage-style windows on 11th Street, letting in a cacophony of street noise and ambulance sirens.
"I think we're going to be great for this block, this area," Lokoff said. "I see people going by us to Dunkin' Donuts [across Chestnut Street], and I get that. It's going to take a little time for them to figure out what we do."
On the first day, he said, it was a shock when a customer came in at 10:30 a.m. and ordered a beer - the first time they've served alcohol.
Dealing with pickets, on the other hand, was all too familiar.
Tuesday's spat started when Joyner told the union guys, who were sitting in beach chairs near the 11th and Chestnut Street entrances, that they could picket at only one door. That resulted in one protester moving even closer to the front door.
"He said, 'You don't like it, call the cops,' " Joyner said.
Within minutes, three police cars pulled up to the cafe. Officers talked to both sides before telling Joyner that the Police Department's Civil Affairs Unit would stop by to explain everyone's rights.
Customers didn't seem to pay much mind. Even Lokoff was somewhat blase.
"They're just guys being paid to do their jobs," he said.