entertainment

Adam Janos Adam Janos

A New Café, Designed for European-Style Leisure, Faces Problems by the New York Minute

A few days after opening the place, the cash register caught on fire.

“I don’t know what caused it,” said Sam Bates, co-owner of the Eagle Trading Company (258 Franklin Street). “Certainly not overuse.”

Soon, Bates and business partner Luke Richards began sorting through all kinds of on-the-fly headaches: running out of quarters during a lunch rush, having to figure out the heating system during a particularly brutal January, and driving supplies back and forth along a hopelessly congested Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Since opening the spot in late December, they’ve worked nearly every single day and barely had a moment to themselves.

It’s a little ironic, since the café was envisioned as a place of respite for Greenpointers trying to escape the constant grind and hustle of the City.

On a trip to Paris a few years back, Sam Bates asked for his coffee in a to-go cup and was laughed out of the café. Coffee in Paris is not a beverage. It is a recreational activity in of itself.

Inspired by that slower pace, Bates and Richards took their time searching for the right place to build a café of their own. While managing bars in the West Village by night (Fiddlesticks, Churchill’s, and Tonic, to name but three) the business partners scoured Williamsburg, Park Slope, and Greenpoint in their spare time, dreaming of a work world with kinder hours and a more sober clientele. Finally, after two years, they leased a spot.

Then, just as slowly, they began construction and polished up the place, setting up a nice long wooden bar where customers could go chat up their baristas (and each other). They nitpicked down to the last detail, and before they knew it another year had passed and their doors were still closed.

“I think some of our neighbors didn’t really know what to make of us,” said Bates.

“And as soon as the doors came open, everything changed,” added Richards. “The things we thought were really important became meaningless. We worked so hard to make sure the ceiling was perfect, but who ever comes in here and looks at the ceiling?”

“We fussed so much about the air conditioning, then ended up opening in the dead of winter,” said Bates.

Despite these self-deprecating quips, the work the two Brits put into design is clear. The place is intentionally Spartan, with natural wood tables, exposed brick, large windows, and clean lines all reflecting the Americana rustic aesthetic en vogue in North Brooklyn.

Richards’ sharp eye for popular designs in the neighborhood comes from experience. He’s been living in Greenpoint for over ten years, and clearly knows his community. Bates lives in Windsor Terrace, though his lease there is running out and he’ll be moving soon.

“I like it up here. I’m here in the neighborhood so much it feels like home. I was even thinking of moving upstairs… though I’m not sure having one landlord for both my store and my home is the best idea. Whatever I do, though, I’d like to move closer to the cafe. That drive on the BQE is killing me.”

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