Oded Bahar is a man on the move. From Queens to Pleasantville to Ossining and Tuckahoe — where he is currently settled with his wife and two young sons — Bahar is as peripatetic as his coffee carts.
A former barista who has always been “surrounded by coffee,” Bahar took a sustainability trip to Costa Rica when he was working for Nespresso in Long Island City that compounded an already near- obsessive interest in the bean. “Nespresso works with the Rainforest Alliance,” Bahar says, “and their coffee farmers have to adhere to a set of over 100 rules, including no pesticides, with everything environmentally friendly and sustainable. Even the distance between the bushes is regulated.”
He came up with the model for his coffee cart when he saw something similar in California — this is not copying, I remind him, merely “borrowing with pride” — and co-founded The Espresso Guys as a partnership with two mates from Pace University, Charlie Piccoli and Hamid Ghiasian. Together they planned out the business and built the cart, which is basically a 6-foot-long bar on wheels. “Well, Hamid actually did most of the building. He’s the practical one,” Bahar says with a smile. “And Charlie?” I ask. Piccoli, I gather, is something of an elder statesman.
The Guys officially launched in January, garnering business from wedding expos in White Plains and Tarrytown. Another show, at The Thayer Hotel at West Point, extended the reach beyond Westchester County.
While the mainstay of the business is weddings and showers, there is literally no event for which The Espresso Guys can’t be hired. They have done bar and bat mitzvahs, sweet 16s, quincineras, birthday parties (from a 1st birthday to a 75th,) corporate events, company holiday parties, and charitable events. The guys and their carts — there are now two, along with help from Bahar’s wife and local baristas — have been present at fundraisers for pancreatic cancer, Crohn’s disease and cystic fibrosis. (WAG first encountered them at a Bloomingdale’s White Plains event.)
The Guys have also been hired by luxury apartment building managers who offer curated coffee free to residents on an occasional basis as an amenity benefit. One company, which manages 20 properties in Manhattan, retains the Guys and rotates them through the buildings. Not every venue is ideal, however, and the partners are still discovering their ideal market. “We did the Hudson Valley Ribfest back in August,” Bahar says, “and it was exhausting. A three-day event with really long hours, standing all day — and nobody wanted coffee. They only wanted to drink beer.”
Most fun was a recent event at One Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where the Guys set up at a fall festival for kids. Bahar brought his elder son, Noah, aged 2 1/2. Noah enjoyed seeing his dad at work on the stand, serving customers and making “latte art.” (Hearts, incidentally, bring an instant smile, and pictures go straight on to Instagram — good for business.) Later in the evening on the day we meet, the Guys were ready to brew at another wedding show to promote the company, this one at Citi Field, an event they were all really looking forward to.
When all three Guys are on the cart, Bahar and Ghiasian do the brewing, while Piccoli acts as greeter, doing the kibitzing. Although no beverage should take longer than a couple of minutes to make (each one is made to order, the beans ground on the cart), lines build up, but the waiting time goes more quickly if the guests have someone to chat to. “There’s an initial rush, which takes a while to clear,” Bahar says. “We’re not magicians, but most people seem happy to wait a bit.”
Most popular coffee? “Actually mocha. It’s popular year-round, although at this time of year we also serve a lot of pumpkin and white chocolate.” The menu on the cart runs the gamut, though, from espresso through Americano to cappuccino and even hot cocoa, the coffees served either hot or iced.
While none has the intention of quitting their day jobs just yet (Bahar holds down a full-time job at Heineken in White Plains and Piccoli and Ghiasian both work in the financial industry), the five- to 10-year plan includes franchising. In the immediate future, meanwhile, there are plans for a third cart in the spring of 2020.
We’ll drink a double espresso to that.
For more, visit espressoguys.com.