It wasn't long after I began spending my days getting lost in Soho that I discovered Ground Support Cafe. It was winter. It was cold. And they had awesome industrial style tables--a selling point for me on so many fronts. I considered it a very welcomed bonus when I realized they were brewing Intelligentsia Coffee and offering the best damn sandwiches in the neighborhood.
Flash forward a few years later, and this spot is one of my go-tos in the neighborhood. Be it for meetings, coffee with the girls, or just to grab a latte before heading off into the city, it's become what I guess you could call a home away from home. Steven Sadoff, owner of Ground Support, has made his cafe into a place where friends and customers alike can feel comfortable to swing by and stay awhile. It's the true definition of a business that functions as a third place.
Name, Location, Occupation
Steven Sadoff, 399 West Broadway; Owner, Ground Support Cafe
What’s the story behind Ground Support?
So, I used to split my year in half. I spent half the year running restaurants, and half my year working in film production. My job in film production, though it was occasionally high action and stressful and exhausting and fun, there was a lot of downtime. And in that downtime, and sort of in my daily prep before going to work on set, I was always concerned like "ok what kind of coffee is going to be on set? Where am I going to get a cup of coffee there? Should I just make coffee and bring it?” I was more concerned with that than like “oh am I going to forget to pack all my tools”
In 2006 the number of places where you could get a cup of coffee was pretty finite. Which was part of the reason it was obvious that I should just think about opening a cafe and in addition I realized how important coffee was to me. So I was like “you know what, I’m going to scale back from opening a restaurant and open a cafe instead, but do it from a restaurant point of view," which is why we have food and sort of a different system. We’re a little bit more complex than the traditional coffee shop.
We’re talking a lot about the third place on City Brewed. What does it mean to you?
The third place is your home away from home. So if the first and second place is home and work, apparently it’s human nature to find a place in the middle where you can escape home and escape work and still feel connected. Still feel loved or useful for whatever reason.
Once it is a fully operational “third place” it’s not just that a customer can come in here and feel comfortable, it’s that they’re friends with the staff and they realize that maybe someone was out sick or on vacation or released an album or wrote a book or whatever it is and there’s this total compassion on both sides of it. And that sort of dialogue and cohesion in daily life and in community is the best part that happens in a business that functions as a third place. It makes it the most fun. It makes work more enjoyable.
Most New Yorkers like anonymity and want to go through the day without having to stop and talk to people like they would In a small town, but we’ll still want that little bit of recognition every so often that just sort of humanizes the city and themselves.
Where do you gain inspiration?
New York is a pretty inspiring place. Most often it’s people who work hard. I think this is a good city to really take witness to that. Like people who recycle cans but put together three or four shopping carts and just sort of grind it out all night long and sort of become industrious—for whatever reason that’s what sort of strikes me. It’s not that I don’t work hard but I’m always reminded that I should work a little harder. I think that’s the great thing about New York: there’s always someone working harder, doing something better, smarter than you, taller than you. There’s always someone one step ahead of you. I love that.
What is your coffee order?
The snarky New York answer to that is just “regular—“ Just regular coffee. The funny thing about New York is that it has two iconic drinks: one is regular coffee—which there is no standardized regular coffee—it doesn’t mean anything, nobody knows what it is. So it’s always funny to just be like “my favorite drink is a regular coffee” because you know, that doesn’t exist. And the other New York drink is coffee in a paper bag. Go into a bodega, order a 12 oz. coffee and they’ll put an inch stack of napkins on the top of the lid and put it in a paper bag. I love those.
So, you know, that’s my long way of not giving you an answer—I drink everything.