Across the street from a noisy construction site, a new Crown Heights coffee shop opened over the summer, offering locals a sliver of peace with their cold brew and scones.
Located at 667 Classon Avenue, Crosby Coffee is a study in whitewashed furnishings and minimalist ambience. Inspired by Crosby Gaige, author of the World's Fair Cookbook, tiny decorative elements are limited to a handful of elephant statues and pitchers filled with fresh flowers.
"Crosby Gaige has been a hero of mine for a long time," says owner Jeremy Mustakas, whose tattooed arms inject some additional color into the bleachy, beachy space.
"He introduced regional American foods to the world, and ushered us into one of the most cohesive eras in American cuisine. He gave food and beverage in this country an identity, a complexity, and a story."
Mustakas says he chose to leave the walls of the shop blank and whitewashed the wood "to try and give the neighborhood a place to think about themselves. To be productive, to be creative, or have 10 minutes to stare off into space and daydream."
And why not? Without a little daydreaming, Crosby Coffee might never have come to be.
"For years I lived across the street from what is now Crosby Coffee, and would stare at the shuttered garage while sitting on my fire escape drinking my morning coffee," says Mustakas of his decision to open the shop this past July.
"There was never any question in my mind as to what belonged in that space, or what our little pocket of Crown Heights needed the most. One morning I watched the building owners hang a 'for rent' sign on the building; I signed a lease by the end of that week."
Having worked in the hospitality industry since the age of 14, Mustakas is no stranger to the art of service.
"I had the opportunity to study viticulture under Charlie Arturaola at Accademia di Vino, and later became the wine director of Gottino in the West Village, which is still my night job," he says.
But with Crosby Coffee, he now has the chance to curate an experience, working with vendors who are as serious about their craft as he is about coffee—which, by the way, comes from Caffe Vita.
"Milk is from Hudson Valley Fresh, the richest milk we've ever tasted," he goes on. "And our pastries come from two places: newcomers Pain D'Avignon, based out of Long Island City, and NYC classic Tom Cat."
But lest anyone get the wrong idea from the pristine atmosphere, Mustakas is quick to share a story that illustrates his love of the neighborhood, grit and all.
"I was walking down Bergen Street with a representative from one of our purveyors around 8 a.m. the first morning we opened," he recalls. "He had only been to New York City a few times, and this was his first trip to Brooklyn. As we crossed the corner of Classon and Bergen, he noticed a man urinating in a corner under some scaffolding.
"He asked me, 'How quickly do you expect this neighborhood to change over the next few years?' Before I could answer, the man, who overheard my purveyor's comments, looked over his shoulder at us and said, 'Oh, what's up Jeremy?' I couldn't stop laughing."
But when he finally did answer the purveyor, Mustakas says, what he told him was that he is here for the neighborhood.
"Not to change it, not to say we were here first, or for street cred," he tells Patch. "We are here to serve this community. That was the first of many feel-good moments I'd have on any given morning in Crown Heights."
Crosby Coffee is located at 667 Classon Avenue, but the entrance is around the corner on Bergen Street. Hours are from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day.