Speaking of the proliferation of coffee vendors in the LES, the quickly expanding Stumptown empire established a beachhead a couple weeks ago. Like all good hipster-y food stories, the commingling of brands is in the offing. Sharing space with Frankies 17 (which is part of the Frankies Spuntino empire, not the Frank empire), Cafe Pedlar is the second location of a potential chain that has some ties to both Stumptown and Frankies. But I’m not here to quibble over ownership structure. Local businesses working together to bring better products to consumers, I’m all for that. If you don’t know Stumptown, then just imagine every bad stereotype of liberals, foodies and northerwesterners who are angry that Starbucks has ruined coffee culture. And multiply that by a large number.
Here’s the thing: the shit is right. I try hard to diversify and never give business to Clinton Street (good coffee, great muffins, overrated food — awful crowds), as I live nearby, but noticing this Pedlar outfit, even though it screams Asshole Coffee Shop, I persisted, mostly because I wanted to see if the hype is to be believed. I’m here to report that, wow, those folks can make a cup of coffee. Pricey, yea (for the beans), but they are roasted right here in Red Hook (maybe they bring the beans to Hope & Anchor for karaoke so they can absorb that hipster note), and they are tas-tee.Â Vote me a convert — to a point. See, Stumptown’s first official outpost in the city is at Ace Hotel. Makes sense. Portland, where Stumptown hails from, is the epicenter of all that is good and bad about urbane liberal culture. They literally invented the Hipster Hotel. Ace had a location there years before trying New York.
Trouble is, Ace is not the best neighbor, especially to, you know, their very close-in neighbors. The rent-stabilized folks, holdovers from the converted SRO that became the Ace location in Chelsea, have staged an on-going war about, well, everything. Portland, the sort of place that builds a homeless shelter for teens that includes boarding of their animals, would surely be aghast at one of their corporate citizens doing things like telling residents of a building to please avoid their lobby. The Stumptown site, which looks like an ad for UN program, and proudly lists their New York digs, is oddly silent on the evils of corporate malfeasance when it cuts a little close to the bone, and sadly reinforces the glib argument that you can rile a liberal about injustice across the globe before you can get them angry about the same just across the street.