78 Norman Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11222
221 Montrose Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11206
by A. P. Smith
As hard as we work, as much as we run around, as fast as the world turns these days, that first coffee in the morning can be a calm in the storm, an almost pious way to begin the day. For many people, our first interaction of the day is with a local barista. You’re just barely awake, maybe even a little late, it’s cold and the sun is bright and you enter Cup, closing the door behind you. As your eyes adjust to the light the barista says, “Hey, Andy.”
That’s Cup, a friendly, welcoming coffee shop no bigger than a Brooklyn bedroom, or a single-car garage, which was the location’s previous incarnation. Co-owners and husband and wife Bianca LeRoux (30) and Jeremy LeRoux (37) converted the pair of single-car garages on Norman Avenue nearly three years ago, first founding Cup, and then Brooklyn Mac next door.
In that time our community has embraced the businesses, part of the first wave of continued developments (e.g. Spritzenhaus, Nights and Weekends) making this neighborhood all the more… neighborly?
“We wanted to be like the Cheers of coffee,” says Bianca LeRoux. “You know, ‘where everyone knows your name!’”
Having experience in the service industry (Bianca had grown up in restaurants with a chef father while Jeremy had managed a catering company after college), the owners believed that customer service was paramount to their business and maybe even a bit scarce in this city.
“We knew it was easy to be nice,” Bianca explained, holding her wide-eyed three-month-old daughter. “Just say ‘hello’, say ‘thank you!’ We wanted to be a place where… for that one time, that one moment in New York when you’re not just somebody passing through.”
Even as Bianca and I chatted in the bay window of the coffee shop she very effortlessly said hello to each and every person who came in for coffee or tea. And in full disclosure, she knew my name long before I could remember hers. But she’s got an edge in that game: Cup’s loyalty cards are kept behind the counter organized alphabetically by name. Buy six cups and the seventh is free.
Cup’s coffee is always fresh and delicious, not to mention strong, roasted by self-proclaimed “coffee-geek” Anthony Kurutz at Plowhshares Coffee Roasters in the Ramapo Valley about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan. A 16oz of the Brazil Daterra Sweet Blue blend costs $2.50 and for food your choices include vegan pastries from Champs Bakery ($3.50) and some of Balthazar’s finest very much non-vegan pastries ($2.50-$3.00).
Also, Cup keeps a sandwich chalkboard on the sidewalk with a new trivia question every day. A correct answer saves you a quarter on your coffee and questions range from geography, to literature, to pop culture. What letter is not used in the names of the 50 states? What does the “F” stand for in F. Scott Fitzgerald? What was the name of Zach Morris’s band in Saved By The Bell? Even if I’m passing by in a hurry, I may just pop in to learn the answer. And, well, even on those days I usually grab a cup to go. Or at least say hello to my friendly neighborhood barista.