There are a few things in life that make a girl feel really special: surprise flowers on an uneventful day, a blow out from Dry Bar and previewing a coffee shop before it's open to the public (that last one may be particularly exciting for my coffee-loving self).
A few weeks ago on a seemingly uneventful Sunday, I headed to Midtown on a mission. I was checking out the newest Aussie-owned coffee shop to take over the area. Just hours before the launch, I sat down with Barry Dry to talk about his newest venture, Hole in the Wall Coffee, and how he's approaching New York City coffee culture from a whole new angle.
Name, Location, Occupation
Barry Dry; 420 Fifth Avenue; Owner/Operator of Hole in the Wall Coffee
Why New York for your coffee shop?
I feel New York is a bit behind the rest of the country and the rest of the world in terms of coffee. The number one provider of coffee in New York is Dunkin' Donuts, believe it or not. So now there's something called "the third wave." Dunkin' Donuts was the first wave with black coffee, Starbucks was the second wave and now we've got kind of the third wave of coffee which is kind of a super premium coffee that's a little bit more expensive but that's because it's sourced with love, you know what I mean?
How does New York coffee culture differ from Australian coffee culture?
It depends which area you're in, I guess. Culture in Midtown is very grab and go. Grab some tea, grab a coffee and get out of there. So the culture in terms of Midtown is very different than say the East Village. People come in, they don't mind spending their time in a coffee shop, using Wifi doing something like that. In terms of the different parts of Manhattan it's very different. And in Australia as well. Coffee culture in Australia is different all together. People will wait five minutes for their coffee because they know the benefits of a good coffee. We're essentially trying to change that mentality especially in this Midtown area.
Midtown is an evolving place. It's not just the delis and stake houses that we're used to. I think we're really moving into the market here in Midtown that's kind of at the bottom and it's rising quickly and we want to be a part of that.
When a customer walks into the space, what kind of experience can they expect to have? More specifically, tell us about the Square application that let's you order before you arrive.
Basically how it works is you can be sitting in your office and go "I've only got a couple of minutes I really want a coffee. I'm gonna order on the app." Then it comes up on our register. It's all paid for and done on the app, tip included, the whole kit. As soon as it's ready we hit a button and they can come down and pick up their coffee. It reduces the wait, but then again we like to promote that our store is a break from the office. We have very friendly staff--all really highly trained in coffee--so we like to think that people can actually come down here and experience coffee. Maybe have a chat with our baristas and kind of learn and enjoy coffee, which is something that we love. We want to spread our knowledge of coffee, and we want you to be thirsty for it.
What's been the most challenging--or the most rewarding--part of opening a coffee shop?
It's been very challenging, I'm not going to lie. Finding the location was really difficult. Most people who open a coffee shop, the very first location they see they say "oh wow this is a gorgeous space, let's open a coffee shop here." Where as we, we had a concept. We went searching for that spot that fit our idea. Finding that location that was perfect for us took awhile--three almost four months before we found a spot, which is a long time.
In terms of the coffee side of things, I got really lucky with Novo. These guys are a family run operation by the father and the son, and the other son is actually the sourcer, so he's the middle man. They get it from the plantation, to the roaster and to us all without touching another pair of hands. Those guys are just absolutely fantastic. Every single person who works there loves coffee. If they don't know something, they're going to go and read for hours on it afterwards. That's the kind of level--I couldn't have asked for a better roaster.
As told to Ellie Eckert on June 15, 2014.