Categorized | Featured, Hurricane Sandy

The Lights Are Out, But the Coffee is Brewing


No one knows when the power will come back in the East Village, but there’s more than one answer to another question: “Where’s the coffee?”

The line for the Mudtruck extended down the block Wednesday morning as Lower East Siders found their morning coffee. Credit: CORAL GARNICK

Wednesday at 8 a.m., Manhattan’s East Village was dry but seemingly abandoned. Store after store was closed, and the only street activity was the occasional jogger or dog walker. As the morning wore on, a few places opened up. And soon it was clear that the question on the minds of many Lower East Siders was “where can I find coffee?”

The coffee seekers stood 16 strong on 9th Street, between First and Second Avenues. At the front of the line stood a bright orange truck, parked outside of Mudspot, a local coffee shop.  The store itself is closed; it has no electricity, only a sign that’s hung there since Monday advising customers to “hang tight. As soon as bridges are open, we’ll have the Mudtruck here.”

And on this morning, two days after Hurricane Sandy blew through, the Mudtruck had made its way from Brooklyn, offering coffee to those deprived of power and their morning caffeine.

“I’m here for my methadone,” said Bill Donaldson, laughing. His methadone? A nice cup of hot and steamy coffee from the Mudtruck. Manager Scott Price said the truck actually made it through on Tuesday, too, parking outside the closed coffee shop. The truck’s generator can power a mini coffee bar.

“I haven’t seen a line this long since last year’s Hurricane Irene,” Price said.

A few blocks away, Liz Quijada, co-owner of Abraço Espresso on East 7th Street, was open for business even though she had no electricity. She and her business partner and boyfriend Jamie McCormick coped by brewing what they called “cowboy coffee,” using water boiled on their gas-powered stove to make a drip brew.

“She makes coffee like it’s nobody’s business,” said Nick Licate, who lives next door to the shop and was happy to carry away two cups of steaming cowboy coffee this morning.

Jamie McCormick brews his famous “Cowboy Coffee” at Abraço Espresso on East 7th Street to satisfy his costumers’ coffee fixes. Credit: CORAL GARNICK

Because the electric company is saying it could be a week before her power is restored, Quijada said she would go shopping for generators today, so her espresso machine can be up and running by tomorrow.

On Monday, Quijada, McCormick and their daughter Lily waited out the storm in their apartment above the café.  Tuesday, with no power and dying cell phones, the family walked to Times Square, had lunch at the Marriott, charged their phones and bought the last radio at a discount electronic store, so they could stay in the loop about the situation throughout the city, she said.  By the afternoon, when the bridges to Brooklyn were open, Quijada was able to get to the kitchen she rents in Brooklyn  and prepare the cakes and pastries for her regular morning opening.

This morning, with the sweets from Brooklyn, Quijada said they were back in work mode, cleaning up the strewn garbage around the storefront, washing the windows and boiling water.  She said they were lucky not to have any serious damage to the café.

A frequent customer at Abraço, Nicholas Nocolosi, who is the super of a nearby apartment building, arrived before the café was ready for business, but at 8:45 a.m. he was back and ready for his morning cup of Joe.

“There is no electricity and no way to make coffee,” Nocolosi said. “I don’t even know what we are all going to do for food – I guess I’ll be eating a lot of Liz’s cake.”

Back at the Mudtruck, Mike Zatorski, a film editor who lives down the street, said he was grateful for his bright orange cup of coffee.

“This is really nice,” he said. “Hot coffee makes a difference.”

Perhaps not a big difference in a city recovering from flooding, downed trees and power outages. But a difference, nonetheless.


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