It takes guts to open an independent coffee shop literally a half block away from the neighborhood Starbucks. Or does it?
“I don’t think it hurts [to be near Starbucks],” said Justin DePascale, the owner of the new Hudson Coffee on Hudson Street, just a few dozen feet from the 12th Street Starbucks. “If you get people to choose you, you win. You have to introduce your product.”
DePascale, a police officer and the grandson of former Hoboken mayor Louis DePascale, started drinking coffee when he began working an overnight shift at the Police Department. His uncle Paul DePascale was the county prosecutor and is now a judge, and dad Tom DePascale works in the prosecutor’s office. The latter also worked in the former Maxwell House Coffee plant on the central waterfront, so coffee may be in the family’s blood (Maxwell House closed in 1992).
DePascale, currently a school resource officer with the Police Department, opened Bean Vault on Newark Street in 2014, also a block from a Starbucks. “In the beginning, we heard from lots of people thanking us” for the choice, he said.
He expects to open a Hudson Coffee in Exchange Place soon.
The new location on Hudson Street, which opened just weeks ago, has room to work, chat, and people-watch out the windows. It hosted its first open mic last week, one of two open mics at coffee shops uptown (Bwe Coffee on Tenth and Washington also hosts them).
The shop features photos of Hoboken through the years, some taken by DePascale himself.
DePascale said that small, local coffee shops offer something better than the chains coffee that’s been roasted recently, rather than months ago. Hudson Coffee gets its brew from Brooklyn, he said, but he hopes to brew locally soon.
Several other new shops opened recently in town, and each has its own personality and specialties, including fresh bread.
The Turquoise Cup, on Sixth Street Between Bloomfield and Garden streets in the center of town, offers something different: Besides a spacious area for patrons to sit and drink, customers of all ages come to paint pottery. They also help plan parties; in fact, the brightly decorated location is available for birthday parties and events. Some may remember their smaller location at the Monroe Center.
Meanwhile, Hidden Grounds, with two locations at the Rutgers campus in New Brunswick, opened a shop at 148 First St. in Jersey City in January and plans to open a second soon at 700 Garden St. in Hoboken, the site of a former convenience store.
Co-owner Anand Patel said that he found that local coffee connoisseurs are more specific in their tastes than college students who might be trying java for the first time. He co-owns the shop with Spoorthi Kumar.
He offers something extra: Bread they bake themselves, and a variety of pastries and sandwiches.
Another small, growing group of bakeries/coffee shops is Chocopain, which has grown to four popular shops in Hoboken and Jersey City — serving coffee, French pastries, bread, soups, sandwiches, breakfasts, and chocolate confections. And two of their locations have a small playroom for kids.
They welcomed the newest location in February at the Hudson Tea Building on 15th Street, replacing a different coffee shop. The children’s playroom, wooden tables, and large windows provide a view of a bustling corner uptown.
Then there’s Joboken, which is hard to miss it’s outside the Hoboken train station, at the former news stand, a frequent meeting spot for locals who have guests coming in via train. The small shop has tables outside.
With all this java flowing, it’s likely there will soon be two cities in this area that never sleep.
By Caren Matzner.
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