Seeing Coffee Differently

By Kara Hackett

Jackie Jackitis jokes with customers at Gregorys Coffee at 58 West 44th Street in Manhattan, N.Y.

At Gregorys Coffee, drinks are an art form.

“We train our baristas in latte art,” said assistant manager Jackie Jackitis behind the counter at 58 West 44th Street in Manhattan, N.Y.

Jackitis has worked at Gregorys for almost two years. She chats with customers in line, calling some of them by name, laughing at pictures in their wallets when they pull out their credit cards to pay.

“We have lots of regulars.” Jackitis said.

“Mostly regulars,” adds Maciej Casperowicz, sitting at one of the black and white marble tables.

Casperowictz is the company’s social media coordinator, barista and coffee tester of two years. He works at his laptop in a plaid shirt and jeans.

“What sets us apart is the amount of effort we put into making our coffee,” Casperowictz said. “We have new technology, and we research new ways to test our brews. It’s the ability to make high quality coffee at a high volume shop.”

Gregorys Coffee offers seven “artisan” roasts: Costa Rica Organic, Colombian, Gotham Blend, Rwanda, Kenyan, Kerosi327 and Greg’s Blend. Their most popular item, a traditional latte with foam designs, sells at $3.50 for a small, $4 for a medium and $4.40 for a large.

With the Algonquin Hotel across the street, the shop is constantly full of customers, sitting on the chocolate colored cushions and talking over the soft rock music.

But down the street from the shop designed to help customers “see coffee differently,” Habib Nazwao of Queens sits on the chair inside Joe’s Kitchen—his boxlike food den at the corner of West 44th Street and 6th Avenue where he’s worked for 10 years.

On a busy afternoon in Midtown Manhattan, Nazwao has no customers.

Habib Nazwao of Queens, N.Y., watches customers walk by his food den, Joe’s Kitchen, at the corner of West 44th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan.

“It’s a real problem,” Nazwao says, sipping a can of Sprite on the counter above an assortment of bottled drinks and breakfast rolls. “Every morning I go to the bank, but I don’t make much money.”

Nazwao works from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day at Joe’s, offering breakfast, beverages and lunch. Coffee is one dollar, and the most expensive item on the menu is a $6 meatball sub.

But people show no interest in bargains, scurrying into restaurants and gourmet coffee shops.

Nazwao points at Gregorys Coffee.

“The coffee I sell is just as good,” Nazwao said. “But Gregorys has the cups just like Starbucks.”

Nazwao laughs, shakes his head and sips his Sprite.

“It’s all about the cups,” Nazwao says. “People choose the $3 coffee over the $1 coffee because it’s all about the fashion. Coffee is fashionable.”

Kara Hackett can be reached at karahackett@gmail.com.

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