By Emily J. Weitz
Sag Harbor buzzes all year round, in no small part due to the healthy selection of places to get a good cup of coffee. That selection is about to get a little bit bigger, and as Jack’s Stir Brew moves in to the Juicy Naam space on Division Street, we’ll see just how many coffee shops one small village can sustain.
Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee first opened in Greenwich Village in 2003, but Jack Mazzola’s quest for the perfect cup of coffee started long before. As he sought the most balanced, flavorful cup of coffee from his French press, he found that stirring the grounds was the answer. He patented the process as well as the machine, and Jack’s Stir Brew became a unique and sought-after coffee.
Mr. Mazzola, who grew up in an Italian neighborhood in New Jersey, always saw coffee as community. To that end, he puts customer service at the top of his list of priorities, after the highest quality coffee, of course.
“Great customer service is the stepping stone for the community,” he said. “When you walk in and hear ‘How are you?’ You feel comfortable.”
But the coffee also has to be great. And for Mr. Mazzola, that means “big, bold, and smooth”.
“Always drinking stovetop espresso from my grandmother,” he said, “I started developing my palate for a very strong coffee at a young age.”
In addition to the process of stirring the coffee grounds, it’s about the source. Mazzola knows the family-owned farms from which his coffee beans originate, in Honduras, Peru, Guatemala, and Brazil.
“I’ve worked directly with all my farms,” he said. Not only has he traveled there and gotten to know the farmers, but he uses it as an incentive for his long-term employees. Those who have been with him for a long time also get an opportunity to travel to the coffee farms to witness the growing process first hand.
Just as Mr. Mazzola values the process of how the coffee is brewed, he values the process of how it’s grown. All the farms that Jack’s works with are certified organic and certified fair trade.
“It sounds so trendy,” he said, “but I’ve been doing this for 15 years.”
Jack’s in Amagansett has been busy year-round since it opened its permanent location in 2011. Mr. Mazzola tried to honor the fishing roots of Amagansett and Montauk in the décor, using reclaimed wood and authentic images of docks and fishermen. In Sag Harbor, he plans to draw on the whaling history of the town as he plans the ambience.
“The inside is going to mimic a boat cabin,” he said. “We want it to be non-pretentious, and well-thought out.”
Good planning will be necessary for the 400-square foot space, which is less than half the size of the Amagansett location. But all the baked goods will be made fresh in the Amagansett location and brought over to Sag Harbor each morning, so most of the space can be devoted to the customer.
Mr. Mazzola has a house in Springs, but he’s always loved Sag Harbor. He was drawn to the village feel. In Sag Harbor in February, it can still be hard to find a parking spot on Main Street. The people who are here all year support the businesses, and Mr. Mazzola loved that.
“What we’ll get in Sag Harbor is a real, authentic year-round community,” he said.
In answer to the question of whether this town is big enough (and tired enough?) to consume all this coffee, Mr. Mazzola is not worried. He believes that each cup of coffee is different, and people will find what they like. They may come for the strong cup of coffee, but they’ll stay for the ambience, the service, the feel.
“I think variety is good,” he said. “We can all thrive off of variety.”
After all, competition means that everyone will have to work a little harder to offer what customers want.
“This allows people to step up their game,” said Mazzola. “It’s a time where others can be inspired.”