A Roasting Stampede Headed Towards NYC

EDIT: This post is “in response,” so to speak, to this NYT article.  I knew I had forgotten something…

Stampede: A stampede is an act of mass impulse among herd animals or a crowd of people in which the herd (or crowd) collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose.

Wikipedia. (2008). Stampede: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Retrieved August 13,2008, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stampede.    (Kinda crazy, I have been reading about bibliography citations lately).

Trust me.  I am for properly sourced, quality, fresh roasted coffee like the next guy.  For crying out loud, I have misjudged my coffee supplies and I ran out today; Thus I am sitting here drinking a press pot of Starbucks Ethiopian Sidamo purchased yesterday from a $B chain store.  I feel like I could have prepared some Folgers and received the same results.  (BTW, off topic, but anybody follow that link?  Notice the ™ on the coffee name?  I wonder what could be going on with that?  Is it Starbuck’s Trade Mark or Ethiopia’s?)

So, we are all for fantastic coffee, right?  With the following names now throwing their hat into the roasting ring in N.Y.C, wouldn’t seem almost like a stampede; Doesn’t it almost seem to be over-saturation?  (Gush, I said over-saturation and NYC in the same sentence). Stumptown, Counter Culture Coffee, Ecco, Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, Brownstone Beans, Café Grumpy, Abraço Espresso, and finally Ken Nye, owner of Ninth Street Espresso all wanting to roast in NYC and within the next 12 months.

Every single one mentioned talked about “signing leases” and moving right in to a facility.  Has anybody heard the portafilter podcast with Ken Nye of Ninth Street talking about just how hard it is to get a lease under $125 a square FOOT!  I must say that is the best podcast I have ever heard in my life, on any topic, and I have replayed it probably six times.  If I recall correctly, he made the comment “…most people from other towns come here and look around and scout it out and put a calculator to it and just go home.”  (Not a direct quote, but that was close).  I know I haven’t started a single coffee shop, and I haven’t even been to a coffee shop in N.Y.C.  Something I have had on a my “bucket list” for a couple years now.   Amazingly I was in Newark, NJ (10 miles from any coffee house in the City) probably 25 times from January to July this year and I couldn’t get across the Hudson to do accomplish the mission.  After he made those remarks, Ken also was asked “So, what is it going to take for more shops to open in New York City?”  And Ken came back with “A realestate collapse.”  I am telling you Ken is “the man” when it comes to the coffee business, IMHO. He is my A-Rod!  I have a Ninth Street Coffee Logo as my desktop image on my laptop.  He is just “doing the business” like I would want to do  the business.  No syrups, no 20 oz (or 16s either), no take out espresso, no…, no…., no…..  Just, NO!  They are the real Coffee Nazi’s of NYC and probably the East Coast.

So, was there a “realestate collapse” in NYC?  I don’t know, I imagine the nationwide realestate collapse, which has generally speaking been atrributed to family homes, isn’t scratching NYC.

Finally, my question is this: I know NYC is HURGE!  But, is there enough specialty coffee houses (don’t read here some crappy place that fills the doser up in the morning and doses out of it until it is empty!) in NYC to justify that many roasters?  Right now, I think I can say “no.”  Maybe they know something I don’t.  They probably do!

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6 responses to “A Roasting Stampede Headed Towards NYC

  1. That’s interesting on the trademark. I suspect it might be the Ethiopian trademark (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/6225514.stm).

    As far as NY, I think there’s still plenty of room assuming, as you say, places can afford it. The thing about NY is density. Pizza places don’t deliver more than a couple blocks because of the vertical distance. Lots of people rarely leave a several square block radius. If you leave on the East side, the west side is like another country. So there’s lots of potential for cafes being fairly close together without cannibalizing one another.

    And even despite the recent explosion of specialty coffee in NY, NY has been such a coffee wasteland for so long, it’s way behind the times relative to the population and the emphasis on quality food. I’m not sure everyone headed there is going to make it, but it will be interesting to watch.

  2. About time $B capitulated on the TM issue. I don’t know if I agree with the government of Ethiopia having the TM, but honestly, $B surely isn’t the one to protect it.
    This link to H-B may be of interest. Kind of a run on of the conversation at hand: http://tinyurl.com/65rnre

  3. Personally, I never thought any of the specialty coffee houses beat the coffee (and atmosphere) offered (CHEAP!) in corner diners all over NYC. Plus, there’s better schmoozing to be done there.

  4. FormerNyer: Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting. But, really now, better coffee? I will give you the atmosphere. When I am in NJ I really enjoy the diner experience!

  5. that article could’ve been written a year ago and said the same thing (minus stumptown’s actual throwdown). it can probably be reprinted again in a year with only minor edits.

    not to be overly cynical… there is some serious movement happening and cool shit on the horizon. i think its important to remember though that even the “big” guys are still small businesses and expanding anywhere is hard and costly, especially in NYC. this article is a bit premature.

  6. This is an interesting discussion and I’m wondering if the distinction between these medium sized places seeking expansion opportunities will place them in a different position than small artisanal start ups like Brownstone Beans. I’m a friend of Harold Butler’s and also a consumer of the coffee (a convert from Oren’s, actually). He hand roasts each batch of coffee and really pays attention to shelf-life. It’s a real labor of love at this point and very much community based with sales expanding based on word of mouth. I’d be interested to hear people’s thoughts on whether that would differentiate one business’s prospects from another’s.

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