October 9, 2003

Gimme Brooklyn

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Gimme! You’ve seen it lurking around the graduate student offices. It sneaks up on you as you cross State St. and jumps out at you from around the corner in the flat lands of Cayuga St., making strange exclamations like, “Hit me Gimme! one more time.” It’s a feisty little devil, but a strangely addictive one. Apparently, however, having infiltrated many an Ithacan’s digestive and nervous system for the past four years, Gimme! has begun to outgrow it’s home. It’s getting time for the little tyke to leave the nest. After a successful test flight to nearby Trumansburg in July of 2002, the well-loved bean machine has started preparations for its adventure to the place where many a Cornell student finds their broke self once they graduate: New York City. Gimme! is going to Brooklyn. Talk about hip. And speaking of talking, daze got a chance to chat with Gimme!’s owner, Kevin Cuddeback, about the upcoming expansion.

daze: So, to start with, what was your motivation for opening the first Gimme! Coffee shop in Ithaca?

Cuddeback: Well, I’m a great consumer of coffee, I had some background in coffee before opening Gimme! Coffee, and I had made a connection with a person with a twenty-year background in roasting coffee [John Gant, “Master Roaster”]. It seemed to be a natural progression.

daze: What prompted the project of opening up a store in Brooklyn?

C: I think we started considering it before this past summer, like in June. There are a lot of people in New York City with an Ithaca connection and there are a lot of people in Ithaca with a New York connection. I had some friends who were moving down there to live and were sort of interested in the idea. So, I just started watching Craig’s List — it’s this website that features commercial properties and things like that — and then I got a map of Brooklyn. I wanted something that was sort of on the path to a subway train, something that was going to have a lot of foot traffic. We like off-the-beaten-path locations and this satisfied that criterion.

daze: Is the new location in a residential type area like the Gimme! on Cayuga St.?

C: Pretty much. Lorimer Street, the street that it’s on, is between Grand St. and Metropolitan, which are two busy commercial streets. There’s a subway line, the L train, at Lorimer and Metropolitan. So it’s like 3 short blocks from the train.

daze: Do you think you might ever have any Ithaca locals stop by at the Brooklyn location?

C: It’s funny, we’ve been building out — we’ve had to do a little bit of demolition, a lot of painting and little bit of construction — so we’ve been down there for about four or five days a week for the past three weeks, and it never fails that on each trip we see somebody wearing an Ithaca College sweatshirt or an Ithaca is Gorges shirt. I think that when we’re marketing the brand in New York we’ll definitely be relying on using our Ithaca connections in the advertising.

daze: Do you have any concerns about the new store?

C: Sure: it’s remote; it’s four hours away. But I’m totally confident in the person who will be running it; he’s a person who’s been with this company for about three years and has been a quality control trainer for a while. The question is really just can we manage the logistics. I’m not worried about not having enough sales to make it worthwhile.

daze: Will the new store feature local art displays like the shops here in Ithaca do?

C: Yes, local being people of that area. The person who coordinates the art shows here will also be coordinating the art shows down there.

daze: Will there be a chalkboard outside the Brooklyn store, like the one on Cayuga St.?

C: I’m not sure. The city of New York has so many regulations that I’m not sure if they allow that sort of thing. I’m told that we can’t put a chair on the sidewalk out front, or a park bench or anything like that.

daze: Do you see Gimme! expanding past Brooklyn at any point?

C: It’s possible. A lot of it depends on the reality of managing a store so far away. It seems to me that, if we were to consider expanding to Cortland or Syracuse, the logistics would be about the same as they are in expanding to Brooklyn. And in terms of where we would rather be, Syracuse or Brooklyn, it’s Brooklyn of course. Also, we’ve got a new website up called Gimmecoffee.com that went live yesterday, and I’m completely impressed by what the designers have done with the product and with the brand and with all the information that they’ve put up besides that. The hope is that operating a retail store in a metropolitan environment will be our foot in the door to doing mail order business with both businesses down there who are looking for coffee, and other people who make coffee at home. If you’re buying coffee off the shelf anywhere, you can be pretty sure that it was roasted more than two days ago. But, if you buy coffee mail order, we roast based on the orders we receive and it goes out Fed Ex within in 24 hours. So, chances are if you get coffee mail order it’s fresher than anything that you can buy on a shelf.

That emphasis on quality and freshness is one of the things that Gimme! prides itself on and there’s little doubt that the people of Brooklyn will be in for a pleasant surprise. So, as we watch Gimme! take off for new lands, bringing its unique sense of coffee etiquette to people in more urbanized areas, we wish it well and tell it we’ll try to visit when we can. After all, we’re all going to graduate eventually and when we do many of us will end up in New York anyway. We may be poor, hungry, and out of work, but hopefully we’ll have enough spare change to stop by a place that will remind us of better days.


Archived article by Thea Brown