Ivan Giovanettina and his landlord Ian Robinson used to sit outside on the stoop of their apartment complaining that there was nowhere to go and hangout for a few hours.
And so it began, as a back and forth joke, the idea of opening a place of their own. Robinson wanted a sports bar, and Giovanettina-- originally from Switzerland-- wanted a café. Together, they combined their interests and opened up Blu York coffee shop last week.
Blu York is a part of the Gateway Business Improvement District (BID). The organization works of off a 5-part program to revitalize Fulton Street and turn it into a retail Mecca, where people can feel safe while shopping, grabbing a cup of coffee or just walking around.
From the ground up, Bed-Stuy employees were hired to build and create Blu York. The kids working the counter and helping with the preparations were hired from the Vannguard Urban Improvement Association’s Youth Development Program.
“Our data shows coffee shops are in demand," Executive Director of BID, Michael Rafferty, said. "Blu York will do well. I hope they beat the pants off of Starbucks, who aren’t a part of BID.”
The coffee shop is bright, modern looking and filled with eco-friendly products.
“We really wanted to be mindful, all of the packaging is made from sugar cane and is biodegradable in 90 days, everything we’ve used in recyclable,” says Giovanettina. The duo wanted something that would be a good example for the community.
“We’re not tree huggers or anything like that, but we offer organic products that don’t have any pesticides. And our coffee is fair trade, because it’s important that even people working far away from our Bed-Stuy community get paid for their services,” said Giovanettina.
Ivan and Ian spent time creating their own blends of coffee with a coffee chemist, a process that Ivan describes as similar to creating your own wine or perfume. Depending on the bean, where it’s from and how it was roasted, their coffees come in a range of different flavors, from fruity and nutty to full bodied and creamy.
Blu’s current blends are ‘Velvet Soul’ a light roasted coffee with buttery, creamy hints and ‘Wholesome Blu’ which Ivan describes as almost tasting like tea, but then overtakes you with a butter-nutty chocolate after-flavor. Of course, the shop also sells regular coffee and beans so you can brew at home.
Blu uses a unique water filtration system that takes NYC out of the water and leaves a cleaner, purer water. Ivan says that the filtration favorably changes the taste of the coffee and ice cubes. Also, a lot of thought went into the menu, considering Bed-Stuy’s struggle with obesity, high cholesterol and diabetes.
“We want people to be healthier, but sometimes healthy tastes like cardboard. Not here! We’re not using substitutes or anything artificial, we’re just taking out some of the butter, some of the sugar, so everything still taste delicious, but is also better for you," said Giovanettina. "Part of a healthy lifestyle is portion control. If you want apple pie, have a little apple pie! Don’t bother with tofu apple or something."
“I’ve been eating a lot,” Giovanettina laughs, looking down at his belly. "Some things work, some things work less.” He’s been cooking to create new healthier foods that are exciting but still also resemble the things that the community enjoys eating.
Blu's future menu will include soups; Giovanettina hopes to have earthy, veggie and hearty soups to choose from. Also available will be wraps, sandwiches, salads, waffle brunches, bread puddings and fruits. Customers already have garnered a fondness for Ivan’s revisited chocolate chip cookies, which he boasts, have 1/3 the sugar and fat and ½ the calories of a regular cookie.
Blu York is a unique, innovative, Brooklyn coffee house that will have Brooklynites rethinking their Manhattan coffee runs.
“We stand alone as a café, we’re not trying to compete, we’re just us,” said Giovanettina with a smile.
Blu York is located at 1365 Fulton. The Cafe is opened Monday through Sunday, from 7:30 am - 8:00 pm during the week and later on weekends.