In a city (and nation) filled to the brim with big coffee chains, a small-scale cafe like The Bean may be the refreshing jolt every Manhattan neighborhood needs these days.
Their company site, thebean.nyc, speaks volumes about its cafe culture.
“What we have: Free Wifi. Awesome Atmosphere. Vegan Treats. Not So Vegan Treats.
What we don’t have: Burnt Coffee. Pretentious Staff. Annoying Coffee Names. Boring Elevator Music.”
To establish its charm, The Bean started out with only three locations, all just blocks apart in the East Village. But there’s a larger reason why AMNY called The Bean “the little coffee shop that could.”
“We started in 2003 when we realized that the local coffee houses were being replaced by something that was not local at all,” says Ike Escava. owner at The Bean. “In 2011 our busy little shop was aggressively taken over by Starbucks, who made a lease deal with our landlord two years before our lease would end.”
At the time of the alarming discovery, Escava had already invested so much time in cultivating The Bean brand and was in the midst of brewing up bold plans for its future.
But with a blink of an eye, he feared the permanent closure of his cafe as a big corporate player encroached on his dreams. “We found out about it when a contractor came into our shop with a measuring tape and advised us that it was for the Starbucks renovation,” recalls Escava.
Escava and The Bean were thrown a major lifeline when a longtime friend, Sammy Cohen, stepped in with a fresh batch of capital. He turned out to be an ideal business partner. Cohen, originally a clothing importer, may have hailed from a different industry but shared the same ambitious spirit as Escava. The new co-owner was adamant about not only salvaging one location but opening a total of three over the next few years.
Soon after, the duo celebrated a grand opening at a shop just one block away from the original location, which happened to be larger and spacier.
Escava says the brightest silver lining came from local customers, many of whom remained loyal to The Bean despite the glitzier, corporate competition that opened nearby.
And The Bean aims to repay the community tenfold for its continued support. Its website, branding, and company history all pay homage to its NYC roots. “We are a neighborhood establishment. We are involved with local organizations,” says Escava. “We drop off food daily to feed the homeless in our area. We have events in our shops put on by the students in our neighborhood schools. We've run fundraising campaigns for a local animal rescue. We know our customers by name and more importantly, we know their drink.”
This approach to customer service and community service is perhaps The Bean’s most essential ingredient to success, as it aims to ensure their warm culture is maintained throughout their East Village shops and beyond as it forays into Brooklyn.
Says Escava, “Our goal is to serve and to be a part of the neighborhoods that we are in. Our expansion plans and goals are to open in neighborhoods near the ones that we are established in and expand our presence slowly.”