In what will be its first entry into Westchester County and slated for a mid-June opening, Joe Coffee Co., the popular New York City-based collection of award-winning cafés, is opening a location at the Stella, the new residential tower in the heart of downtown New Rochelle (Page 22).
The new franchise will be open seven days a week, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., offering a full menu of hot and cold beverages along with light fare. Joe Coffee’s signature house coffee, The Daily, will be available on drip, with its signature espresso, The Waverly — named for its first café in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village — serving as the base for the espresso drinks. Joe Coffee will also serve a range of other drinks such as matcha, turmeric and chai lattes.
The group operates 24 cafes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, as well as a successful retail and merchandising arm. It roasts all of its coffees at its roastery in Long Island City. With a keen focus on people and hospitality, each Joe Coffee location sets out to reflect the unique neighborhood of which it is a part.
The business was founded in in 2003 by Jonathan Rubinstein, an ex-talent manager and kids’ camp director, with practical and hands-on support from his family. In a recent phone conversation with WAG, Rubinstein said he was looking forward to welcoming Joe Coffee to the Stella and explained why the group had chosen to branch out from its tried-and-tested home base, namely New York City, where Joe Coffee had made its name. “We’re always looking for beautiful spaces where we might resonate and people might like us. And part of the reason this is really appealing is our most successful location of all time is in Grand Central Terminal. Over the years, many, many people have said to us, wouldn’t it be great if you had something on the train line where we could get your coffee and have the experience not just in Grand Central but at home.”
Indeed, Rubinstein continued, as a main transit hub, New Rochelle had long been on his radar. He had always wanted to try the concept outside the city and see if it had legs to work in a suburb — although he acknowledged that New Rochelle is actually a city, too. “But perhaps one with a more suburban feel,” he added. (He also mentioned that an earlier Joe Coffee outlet, in Philadelphia, now closed, didn’t work as well as he had wished. “I think we made some mistakes there.”)
Another reason for choosing New Rochelle, he said, was that while the company knew it wanted to do something outside of the city, it wanted to be “local” enough that its district managers and trainers could jump back and forth between the sites without going “out of town.” “New Rochelle is just half an hour away, so operationally, it’s no different to, say, our Brooklyn Heights store. It takes about the same amount of time. For all those reasons, it made sense to try New Rochelle.”
When looking specifically at the opportunity in the Stella, Rubinstein said that Joe Coffee couldn’t have dreamed of a more beautiful location. “We couldn’t have built (a site) that is beautiful, we couldn’t have afforded to and we could never have imagined that much space.” He called the site “stunning” and said that, in terms of planting a flag in another city, and doing it with a wow factor, this was just it. “It also works with our aesthetic, so from a brand perspective it also made sense.”
He always wanted Joe Coffee to be more of an all-day café, and that is very much on the cards. “We’re very busy in the morning, then the coffee break, but very few people drink caffeinated beverages after dinner. But (the cafés) are generally such a nice place for people to meet and be social, and so we want to offer something that will bring people in at all different times of the day.”
That “something” is likely to be wine, eventually dual-purposing the coffeehouses as wine bars. “Wine,” Rubinstein said, “is a culinary-related product, perhaps along with a cheese plate, and something the staff can be excited about and with the same (Joe Coffee) atmosphere. We’re not there yet,” he added, but we’ve wanted to do a wine program in the past and actually had one set up, with the wines selected and ready to go, the week before Covid hit.
More on that in the future, but for now, elaborating on his perfect site aesthetic, Rubinstein said each location needed to be representative of the neighborhood and stand on its own — not look like part of a chain. “We look for really good frontage, good seating areas, good flow, natural light through the windows and how we can put our own brand-stamp into space. That might be with color, or the signage, or the way we display food, so that it’s appealing in the way we like to present things.
“While the New Rochelle site does feel a little bit more upscale than most of our other locations,” he added, “still if you walked in, especially when the branding is in place, you would absolutely believe that it was designed and custom-built by us.
“It just feels like Joe,” he said.
For more, visit joecoffeecompany.com.