There's no place like home, except maybe Cup-A-Jo in Chenango Bridge. The first time I visited was before they moved next door to their larger new space, and I almost walked right into thekitchen. It felt as if I had walked into the home of somebody who didn't mind the sight of an unfamiliar face. "My phrase here is: "A stranger when you arrive, a friend when you leave," says owner Amy Jo Taylor, a Whitney Point native. "I love people. People come in here to talk to me. I could find out somebody's whole life story in one visit, and I don't even try to."
Located on Upper Front Street, there aren't many other independent coffee shops in her neck of the woods, so Cup-A-Jo has become a popular meeting place for old friends and new. "This is a great place for the community to meet. We sit hereand talk amongst each other." Amy takes a lot of pride in her community, in her shop, and in her coffee. "About twenty years ago, my sister took me to a coffee shop in Harrisburg and I had my first latte, and I fell in love. Ten years later, I decided that I wanted to start my own. On a snow day in January, the kids were off from school, and my kids came up with the name. We opened up a drive-thru coffee shop in Chenango Bridge, right across from our current location, that June."
Everything at Cup-A-Jo is homemade, on premises. Amy's fiance, Tom Marcano, does all of the cooking and baking, so there is authenticity to its local, familial feel. Their coffee is sourced from Binghamton-based Java Joe's Roasters, as they only want to offer the best. "I'm a snob. I want a good cup of coffee. Always. I don't want it stale; I want it hot; I want it fresh." Amy has a secret to making the best iced-coffee drinks around, but you need to have one yourself to find out what makes them so special.
When I arrived, I ordered a cappuccino and a loaded (i.e. with tomato and bacon) "Almost Famous Chicken Sandwich, "which is, essentially, a chicken salad melt. It may sound basic, but I was comforted to find on the menu, as it's a favorite of mine that I usually have to special order. Eating at Amy's establishment is like sitting in the home of an old family friend,one who happens to make a superb cappuccino. After finishing my sandwich, I went to the counter and stared at her gorgeous, gleaming, red espresso machine. "That's my Cadillac," she pronounces proudly. Her prize piece of equipment, it's the source of seriously delicious espresso drinks, but there is much more to admire in the shop.
"We have dedicated an entire wall to consign to crafters. People come here and set up their wares: homemade soap and lots of handmade goods. I met a lot of people at Jimay's Flea Market in Conklin (note: go there) who are going to come here and set up." When she originally told me this, they were still at their old location, with only a small amount of space for display. With all the space in their new shop, it's a veritable crafters" collective: handmade soaps, scrubs, tote bags, paper goods, and other lovely things, all fitting cohesively with the shop's cozy aesthetic. From the big blue garbage cans in front, adorned to look like giant coffee mugs, to the warm decor inside, it's obvious that Cup-A-Jo offers something unique. When pressed, Amy simply replies, "They come here for companionship, they do. And they know the food is all homemade, so they're not afraid to try something different and new on the menu." A community has formed in this Chenango Bridge cafe, and I was in the presence of some of them the day I visited. Amy beamed as she introduced me to the man she bought the building from, who was there enjoying a snack. "He's my biggest fan."
If you're having one of those days, and you need a mood adjustment, Cup-A-Jo might be the place to go. "Thursday mornings we have a group of retirees, and semi-retirees, who just sit and gab and tell stories." Having grown from a mother's snowy-day dream, to a roadside stop, to a generously sized shop, it's hard not to feel the love at Cup-A-Jo. Take a spin off the beaten path to 1355 Upper Front Street and see for yourself. They also host events. Hours are Monday through Friday 6:30am-4pm, and Saturdays from 8am-1pm. They are closed on Sundays. For information, call (607) 237-5174.
By: Heather Merlis, Assistant Editor
Coffee Prices to Rise By Caroline Goggin
June 24, 2014 Updated Jun 25, 2014 at 12:12 AM EDT
(WBNG Binghamton) Starbucks prices are set to increase this week in various markets. This follows a trend of higher coffee costs that began in recent months.
Many would argue the best way to start the morning is with a cup of coffee, but a cup just got a bit more expensive.
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"You have one of those days, you just need coffee to get through it," said Corynn Benneduy of Vestal. "So I will spend whatever amount of money, unfortunately."
Prices will rise due to a drought in Brazil and coffee rust impacting some of the best crops of coffee beans.
Depending on the market you live in, Starbucks may increase 10 to 15 cents for grande and venti brewed coffee, and 15 to 20 cents more for tall and venti lattes.
Earlier this month, Folgers raised the price of their bags of coffee by 9 percent, and Maxwell House did by 10 percent. Starbucks is expected to raise theirs 8 percent by the middle of July.
Despite the price hike for large companies, local businesses in the Southern Tier say they have not yet been affected.
"So far, we have been very fortunate and we have been able to keep the coffee prices down," said Owner of Cup-A-Jo Cafe Amy Taylor. "I have not had to increase my prices, I haven't felt the pinch yet."
Taylor said that even if she does feel the pinch, she will not raise prices.
While coffee is a big seller at the Cup-A-Jo cafe, they work to sell the experience as a way to keep customers coming back to their business instead of taking it to chains.
"You can buy coffee anywhere, but you can't get customer service and a friendly atmosphere everywhere," added Taylor. "I think that's what sells the most."
Smaller coffee shops like Taylor's use local roasters. Those businesses have not felt the effects of the hightened coffee prices yet.
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