Written by Chris Boyle, firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday, 07 December 2013 00:00
Ask anyone on Long Island where to go to get a quality cup of coffee, and you’ll probably hear a variety of answers; however, ask the same question in the Massapequas, and one response you’ll hear more often than not is “Massapequa Perk.”
Located at 117 Front Street in Massapequa Park, across from the Long Island Rail Road station, Massapequa Perk first opened its doors five years ago in August of 2008. They deal with tea, smoothies, and various food and dessert items, but their bread and butter, so to speak, is coffee — selling it, roasting it and educating people about it, said co-owner Lisa DiBenedetto
“We import beans through bean brokers, and we get our coffee beans ‘green,’ meaning they’re not cooked yet,” she said. “We roast every week in small batches, and we get coffee from all around the world — South America, Central America, Indonesia. And when you roast every week, you’re getting fresh coffee.”
DiBenedetto and her husband Lucky Fortunato used to be corporate people doing the daily commute to Manhattan, but when it came time to start a family, they elected to try something new to remain closer to home.
“A coffee shop was always in the back of our minds...we weren’t searching for a specific spot, but this is our community. We live here,” DiBenedetto said. “One day, we were taking a walk, and this storefront was for rent, and Lucky saw it and said that it would make a great coffee house. And, like most of the decisions that we’ve made in our life, it happened just like that. When we think things out, it’s terrible, but when we go with the flow, it works.”
A week or two later, DiBenedetto said, the lease was signed and she and her husband were painting the store. Five years later the duo is still going strong, and it’s because they both bring different aspects of their love of coffee to the business.
“Lucky is very much interested in the origin of the bean, how and where it grows, how the altitude it’s grown at affects it, the soil...he’s very much into that,” she said. “I’m into the social aspect of it...nearly all of our beans are grown by small farms, and we pay fair trade value as much as possible. In this industry, many workers are not offered a fair wage for their product, and fair trade organizations ensure that that family gets fair market value...it elevates their community. That’s the aspect of the business I’m into.”
“And our interests in those areas trickle into how we run the day-to-day business here,” DiBenedetto continued. “Lucky will try to educate the customers on different kinds of coffee beans, and I’ll ask them how they kids did in school that day.”
Lucky Fortunato is a man that knows his coffee...that’s something that you can ascertain within two minutes or less of talking with him. Clearly, this is the man you want in charge of your morning cup o’ joe, as he knows all there is to know about filtering, temperature, and, of course, the most complex aspect- the bean selection process itself.
“It’s critical,” he said. “It’s the consideration of just being a coffee roaster or being a specialty coffee roaster. We pay a premium for beans, but our per-cup cost is the same as all of these mass-produced major coffee companies who aren’t getting select crops.”
Usually Massapequa Perk deals with organic beans, but they make exceptions...especially when it’s out of their control, Fortunato said, unleashing yet more of his mind-boggling coffee know-how.
“Sometimes it’s organic, sometimes it’s not...sometimes that USDA Organic certificate isn’t relevant,” he said. “Due to the rain in some of these mountainous areas, some of these farms are subject to run-off from other agriculture-producing estates, and the run-off can technically contaminate the coffee crops in nearby areas, depending if it’s in the lowlands or highlands.”
When dealing with a prospective new grower, Fortunato said that he takes it seriously; typically he gets his hands on samples and measures their PH levels, the temperature where they reach their pinnacle yield, and virtually every other aspect they bring to the table to determine the only truly important thing — will it actually make a good cup of coffee?
“Over the course of a year, a Massapequan can see anywhere between 18 and 22 different countries of origin here when they walk through the door,” he said. “I’ve seen people come in over the years who have their coffee with milk and three sugars, but now they’re just taking it black...we’ve found a small population of fanatics who didn’t even know they liked coffee and now they’re enthusiasts.”
Customer Sal Scrimenti of Massapequa Park has been a regular since Massapequa Perk has opened their doors five years ago.
“The product is great, the service is great, and the owners are wonderful people,” he said. “I come here at least once a day, five days a week...sometimes twice a day. I meet my daughters here a lot, and they get me to buy them coffee. I spend a little fortune here with my kids, but it’s worth it.”
DiBenedetto stated that, while owning your own business can be difficult in this day and age, she said that the positive changes affected to her life by Massapequa Perk were more than worth every bit of effort.
“Absolutely the best decision that we’ve ever made,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, but we’ve enjoyed a healthy business, we’re home, we’re in our community with people that we enjoy every day...we’re very fortunate to have this. We’re very comfortable here, and that’s a nice way to feel.”