With The Bean’s Truck Gone and Starbucks Coming, A New Cafe Courts Reluctant Customers

khufuDaniel Maurer Lisa Burris and Paul Said.

The truck that the Bean debuted in front of its former storefront last month has been taken off the road – in fact, it only lasted a day. “It was a great idea,” manager Guy Puglia told The Local today, “but we couldn’t do it. It cost us too much money.”

Meanwhile, a half-block away on Third Street between First and Second Avenues, Khufu, a hookah lounge that opened about four and a half years ago, has started operating as a café during the day. Happy news for displaced Bean customers in need of a cappuccino, a croissant, free WiFi, or one of thirty varieties of organic tea? Not necessarily, according to Lisa Burriss, an employee of the cafe and a former director of organizing at Good Old Lower East Side. She said that she had encountered resistance from the coffee shop’s loyalists, in part because – coincidentally, she said – Khufu opened for coffee and brunch service on the day the Bean closed.

The trouble started after Ms. Burriss hired people to hand out flyers at the end of her block, across the street from where the Bean’s truck was parked. “The owner attacked some of our flyer people,” she said. “He said, ‘How could you do that? It’s not good form.’” Ms. Burriss said that the man eventually made nice, even coming into Khufu to buy a cup of coffee.

Mr. Puglia, who was manning the Bean’s truck that day, said that he noticed Ms. Burriss’s team handing out flyers. “We asked them what they were doing and they told me what it was, and the lady was really cool about it. I didn’t tell them to stop or anything.”

But if there are no hard feelings between the owners, certain Bean customers are still upset.

khufu1Daniel Maurer

Ms. Burriss said, “Their customers were telling us ‘How could you do this to the Bean? How could you open up while the Bean is closing? We’ll never come here!’” She described a verbal confrontation with one such customer: “I was like, ‘You don’t know anything about me. I was actually born and raised in this community – we were here when the Bean was Little Ricky’s. We used to get toys there when I was a little girl. The house I was born in is blocks away.”

In fact, Ms. Burriss went to elementary school with one of the baristas, Colin Fisher, who said the timing of the opening was a coincidence: “We found out they were closing the day before we were opening.”

The café’s owner, Paul Said, said, “We didn’t really know what was going on for us to be going out gunning for people.” He admitted that the Bean’s regulars were “a little hesitant” at first, but said that he now gets “a lot of compliments on the coffee because we’re using a much better coffee.” (He trumpeted Blue Mountain Coffee as a top-rated brand.)

Ms. Burriss said she is doing her best to win over customers. “Some of them come here reluctantly,” she said. “They’re like, ‘We love the Bean.’ You have to echo them: ‘We love that you love small businesses!’”

But she will only go so far. “This one guy said we should let him bring his dog in like at the Bean,” she said. “They want me to get a $1,000 fine!”

Mr. Puglia, who estimated that the Bean’s new location will open in about a month, said that he had no control over whether customers took offense to the new café, but added, “I’m glad to see my customers are so loyal.”


Correction: October 19, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated that Lisa Burriss was a co-owner of Cafe Khufu.