First published in NYC24, The Hijinks Issue, 2008.
By Jay Corcoran
April Fool’s Day at Think Coffee, New York City.
Mildred Verrier was worried.
One night last week she planned to roller skate at her place of employment, Think Coffee, while dressed in her underpants and other accessories while playing the ukulele.
“The singing and nudity didn’t bother me,” said Verrier a coffee barista-singer, “it’s the roller stakes, I never did it before.”
From the wild applause from the audience no one paid attention to her rollerskating.
Hijinks is part of the everyday fabric at the popular Greenwich Village Cafe, but last week the coffee baristas pulled out all the stops to celebrate the mother of all hijinks, April Fool’s Day.
The mastermind of the evening, Sarah Riley, night manager and filmmaker, convinced her boss and the owner of Think Coffee, Jason Scherr, to allow her to host the event.
It didn’t take a lot of convincing.
Scherr fully supports Riley and encourages the baristas to practice artistic creativity in the store. He shows work from local artists that even his student patrons can afford. The art sells as low as $30, but most pieces hover in the $200-$400 range. Last month Gallery.
“One of the challenges in New York City is to provide a forum for not the most established artists and musicians in the world,” said Sherr. “We offer an alternative space and I think that is a good thing to bring to the city.”
Sherr opened his Greenwich Village store two years ago and the place has become so popular that during most of the 18 hours the store is open for business it is difficult to get one of the 100 seats.
Knowing that hijinks is good for business, he gives his employees free reign to wear what they want and try out their jokes on the sandwich board in front of the store.
Local residents look forward to reading the daily off-beat messages as they line up for their $4.11 large cappuccino.
“The sandwich board makes me pause even when I am in a rush,” said Robert Schwartzman, 44, toy maker and Think Coffee neighbor.
Sherr also sells organic fair trade coffee and donates 10 percent of his profits to charity.
“My goal is to embed in our business model a place to create goodwill within the community,” Sherr said.
Sherr’s staff attest to the benefits from his goodwill.
“You can’t even consider this work,” said the rap artist who calls himself T-shirt. “It’s great fun and I get paid for it.”
Jonelle Green, an artist representative, travels from her Philadelphia home to work three night shifts at Think.
Tonight she wears a shower cap, a football jersey and keeps an unlit cigar in her mouth.
“What’s not to love?” Greene asked. “I get to go ghetto.”
Riley goes over the list of hijinks scheduled for the evening; coyote ugly dancing on the bar, a bare-assed barista, a “customer” gets a cream pie in the face, and many other surprises.
“I’m kind of nervous, I feel like I’m 11 years old again,” Riley said, “It’s a sense of carefree fun that I don’t normally have as much of.”
Sherr’s investment in art, music and hijinks is paying off for his 30 employees and hundreds of customers.
On April third he opened another Think Coffee around the corner from the 248 Mercer St. location at Bleeker Street and Bowery.
“I want to grow this business in an organic way. I don’t want a Think Coffee on every corner” said Sherr. “I think we would lose part of the culture we are trying to create here.”