Eye On Real Estate: Baristas are the stars at Park Slope coffee connoisseurs' paradise
By Lore Croghan
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
For people who like coffee it's paradise, or pretty darn close to it.
Gorilla Coffee – which has a following thanks to its shop at 97 Fifth Ave. in Park Slope and a brisk wholesale business – just opened a new location that puts the baristas up close and personal with customers.
The owners of the new cafe at 472 Bergen St. are self-described “coffee geeks” Carol McLaughlin and Darleen Scherer, who blog about their visits to the Pacas family, fifth-generation Salvadoran coffee growers who supply their beans.
“This is the culmination of 11 years of wishes and wants,” said McLaughlin, who like Scherer is passionate about all things coffee without being pedantic.
They had deep wells cut into the service counter at their new Park Slope java joint to place their various coffee machines down low so the baristas' faces aren't hidden.
In other cafes, espresso machines stand tall – and become barriers that block baristas from view.
A design team called Own Entity created an inviting interior with understated decor, like a stage set where the baristas and their coffee-making are the stars of the show.
One of the Bergen Street shop's espresso machines is a La Marzocco Strada EP, which is kind of like a Stradivarius for coffee lovers.
“It takes a lot of training to do this right,” said barista Steven Grassel as he worked his magic with Gorilla's Espresso A-Go-Go blend, a combo of beans from Sumatra, Brazil and Rwanda.
The other espresso machine is a Modbar, or modular brewing system, which is used by baristas at a slow bar.
The coffee-making process at the slow bar is, well, slow by the standards of Brooklynites hurrying to work. It takes four minutes. For caffeine cravers in a rush, there is quick service at the front of the shop.
The slow bar gives the barista a chance for a chat about the joys of java if he senses the customer is receptive.
“The person has to be trained well enough to read people,” McLaughlin said. That barista must have the acumen to figure out on the fly how to give the coffee drinker “a memory and an experience … and be creative with the lessons,” she said.
Plus, with repeat customers “you have to find new coffee experiences and education moments without hitting them over the head.”
She and Scherer are counting on repeat customers, tons of them. The beverages (there's tea, too) are priced $3 to $4 apiece.
“We need a lot of volume,” Scherer said.
The entrepreneurs, who do their coffee-bean roasting in Sunset Park, spent a pretty penny on building out the storefront. City Department of Buildings records give the estimated cost of the project as $50,000 plus an estimated $1,755 for signage.
How close was the construction cost to the estimate? “It's as accurate as the weight on a woman's license,” McLaughlin deadpanned.
The two entrepreneurs didn't pick out the Bergen Street location. It picked them – or to be more precise, landlord Michael Pintchik did.
The landlord, who has substantial holdings around Barclays Center, recruited them to rent the storefront after deciding not to renew the lease for prior tenant Lululemon.
The athletic clothing maker had a showroom with limited hours of operation, which Pintchik thought wasn't helpful to neighboring merchants.
“He's kind of curating this block,” Scherer said. “He wanted businesses that work off each other. We're all like-minded, but complementary.”
Co-tenants on the street just off Flatbush Avenue include a maternity clothing shop called Bump and much-publicized sex-toy shop Babeland.
Going to Bergen Street sidetracked McLaughlin and Scherer from a project to construct a “roastery” at an industrial property they bought in Gowanus, 498 President St.
For a while, they tried building out both locations at the same time, but it was too complicated.
Once the Bergen Street shop gets rolling, they will be able to turn their attention to the President Street project.
Roasting is getting to be quite the thing around here.
Brooklyn Roasting Co. does its work on Jay Street in DUMBO. Stone Street Coffee Co.'s roasting plant is on Ninth Street in Gowanus. Caffeine, anyone?