Another day, another coffee shop opening in North Brooklyn – an exaggeration, sure, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way in the land of the $7 latte. One of the newest entrees to the increasingly crowded coffee shop scene is The Bean, an extension of the popular East Village chain started by Ike Escava.
Though Escava opened his first coffee shop nearly 12 years ago, he’s had North Brooklyn on his mind for a long while.
“We had looked at this area in the past and weren’t able to get the right space,” he told the Gazette. “We stayed looking at the market and when this space became available we grabbed it, because we felt it was the perfect spot.”
The Bean is an airy shop on the corner of Bedford and North 11th, with plenty of seating and a serious selection of pastries, sandwiches and desserts. Escava envisions the space as being more than a just coffee shop but also a community watering hole where locals can spend a few hours of their daily lives.
“We built the store with the intent of making it a very welcoming and cozy place,” he said. “People should feel welcome to come in and do their work or stay in the store.”
He’s also integrating the community through art. Several local artists have pieces hanging on the shop’s walls, and a mosaic mural created by “folk hero” Jim Power welcomes customers at the store’s entrance. A 20-foot column inside the store will be painted by a local artist in the upcoming weeks.
“We tried to make the store feel like a part of the neighborhood by involving local artists,” Escava explained.
Then there’s the part of Escava’s business that won’t change: the coffee. All of the beans sold in his four locations are specially roasted at Brooklyn’s Gillies Coffee Company, the oldest coffee roaster in the country, founded in 1840.
He turned to Gillies’ owner Donald Schoenholt with “a taste in his head,” and after a few thoughtful conversations and several rounds of experimentation, found the perfect blend for his customers. The beans are from sources all over the world: East Africa, Indonesia and South America.
“You get a cup that should be, if it’s brewed properly, aromatic and a little bit on the dark side,” Schoenholt told the Gazette. “It should be rather full bodied, have a depth of character and natural sweetness.”
He suggests trying the coffee first without milk and sugar, in the same way that a chef would suggest his customers try their dishes without reaching for the salt shaker right away.
“I’m blending to achieve a taste that I hope someone will enjoy as a cup of black coffee,” Schoenholt said. “His blend is quite extraordinary.”
Unlike other shops in town that center their businesses around the latest brewing techniques and cutting-edge technology, The Bean is a little more mainstream – a coffee shop for people who might like to sit down, sip on a reasonably priced cup of Joe and enjoy a luscious tart baked in a nearby neighborhood shop.
“They’re a business that I watch because they make no bones about the fact that they’re a business for the everyman,” Schoenholt said. “They’re decidedly uncool, and yet they serve, I think, very sound products.”
So far it seems the community agrees. On Tuesday afternoon, most of the shop’s wooden tables were filled with people working on laptops, reading and sharing soft conversations with their coffee-drinking companions.
“People have been giving us a warm reception,” Escava said. “It feels good.”
101 Bedford Avenue