STAMFORD — Cyclists who appreciate a good roast know the unofficial last leg of the route comes after they cross the finish line. So do the owners of Pacific Cycling & Triathlon.
Seeking to capitalize on customers’ penchant for enjoying a post-ride cup of coffee with fellow cyclists, co-owners Julie and Yori Gabay opened last month the Pacific Cafe coffee bar in their store at 984 High Ridge Road. But they are also seeking to appeal beyond their existing clientele and turn the venture into a community gathering place.
“Most cyclists love coffee, and we thought the combination of the two would be a great marriage,” Julie Gabay said in an interview at the cafe last week. “We wanted to have an upscale cafe in our bike shop with very good coffee and pastries and foods you can’t usually get at a local coffee shop.”
Pacific Cafe stands a few hundred yards from the Starbucks in the High Ridge Center shopping plaza, but the Gabays and their colleagues said that they view their venture as a distinct gathering place that is not aiming to compete with the giant across the road. The Gabays had contemplated opening a cafe in their store for a couple of years, dating back to when their business was based on Pacific Street in the city’s South End.
“It’s really about offering something different here,” said Lori Hoefer, the store’s director of advanced bicycle fitting. “We have neighborhood folks who walk in the door and say ‘This is really cool,’ and then they start reminiscing about the bike that they had when they were younger. Some people then start thinking ‘Maybe I can start riding again.’”
Pacific Cycling moved in November 2015 to its current location, but the cafe’s menu maintains the business’ South End ties. Their coffee comes from BonJo Coffee Roasters, which runs an Elm Street coffee house. Pacific Cafe’s offerings include coffees such as the “Bullet Proof” variety, which contains MCT oil and grass-fed butter, espressos, hot chocolate and teas. New York City bakeries make the cafe’s pastries.
“No cafe-running experience, but I do have a particular palate for coffee,” Julie Gabay said. “I know a lot about coffee, and I know what’s good coffee.”
The Gabays carved out about 1,500 square feet for the cafe in their 4,000-square-foot storefront by re-arranging its bike inventory. It did not reduce its stock.
Yori Gabay designed the new space, which cost about $20,000 to construct. He picked out reclaimed wood for the bar, menu board framing and tabletops.
“We wanted to bring that personal touch,” Yori Gabay said. “It’s something different and unique, rather than having something prefabricated.”
Many patrons agree. In its first few weeks, the cafe has already attracted longtime customers, new clients who do not cycle and employees of neighboring businesses.
“It’s the perfect addition to the bike store,” said Lauren Fein, who joined friends Andrea Greenburg and Dan Nascimento for a midday gathering last week. “The location is just so nice; it’s perfectly located. It’s easy to stop by because everyone is going up and down High Ridge all day.”
Nascimento said that Pacific Cafe’s atmosphere reminded him of the ambiance in European coffee shops frequented by cyclists.
“If you ever go cycling outside the country… after you finish any kind of bike ride, you hang out at the coffee shop,” Nascimento said. “We can’t have this conversation in Starbucks because there are 100 people around you. There’s no space.”
For now, Pacific Cycling’s existing employees staff the cafe. But the Gabays plan to hire a barista so that they will be able to keep running the cafe when cycling sales pick up again in the spring. In the meantime, the Gabays and their colleagues said that they relish the challenge of running a coffee business.
“This helps with the seasonality of a bike shop,” Hoefer said. “It helps us to keep life in the bike shop. In the middle of winter, a bike shop can be pretty dead. It keeps the energy going.”
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