ITHACA, N.Y. — Some folks like the people watch and absorb the hustle and bustle as they enjoy a hot cup of joe. Others might want a more serene, natural experience. Gimme! wants to oblige those bean-loving naturalists.

The local coffee roaster and retailer is in the midst of an expansion at its shop at 7 East Main Street in Trumansburg. The coffeeshop is expanding its footprint, by doubling its seating and building a staircase down to a basement-level outdoor patio tucked away from Main Street, fronting the churning waters of Trumansburg Creek.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Cuddeback

Gimme! Coffee CEO Kevin Cuddeback says the space will be a pleasant alternative to the often-crowded shop, which has been a staple of the heart of Trumansburg since 2002. “We decided to expand based on the presence of key infrastructure – basically, having a patio out back. The only obstacle was figuring out how to get down there. The landlord Ben Guthrie and I, we met and made a plan for overcoming that obstacle. The motivating factor is that our peak times, between 7:30 [AM] and 10:00 [AM], it’s just shoulder to shoulder, it overflows out onto the street, and that’s great, but some might view that as an obstacle, being that densely packed. Some people might enjoy a quieter experience, and this being down a story at the basement level, brings it away from street noise and closer to stream noise. I think it’s going to be a really special spot.”

Plans call for bench seating and coffee tables for gathering, and a bevy of local businesses have been working on different part of the project to create an attractive, inviting space. “Accufab did the stairs, and they did a tremendous job, doing steelwork with all those angles on an old building, it’s like quantum physics, just extremely difficult. Durand’s Forge is doing a decorative railing that basically goes all the way around from the door, I think 70 linear feet. Hilary Gifford, Ben’s wife, has been really involved in the process, she’s a textile artist who’s been really involved in the railing design and the decorative ironwork, and the mural across the creek [to be painted] on the NAPA building.”

Photo courtesy of Kevin Cuddeback

Since the turn of the millennium, the coffee culture of Ithaca, and the country, has grown substantially. Gimme! Coffee was founded in 2000 and now has seven locations in Tompkins County and New York City. The Ithaca Coffee Company was founded in 2004 and has two locations in downtown and at the Triphammer Mall, and local startup Copper Horse Coffee Roasters was hardly open six months when they won an award for “America’s Best Espresso” last year. According to Cuddeback, this rise has little to do with a greater caffeine fix.

“I think it’s about appreciation, the ritual of coffee drives that. I think there’s an appetite for a variety of experiences. I believe that the coffee house experience is popular as a result of a decline in many other social institutions, say 30 years ago, we’ve moved kinda from strip mall culture to neighborhood commercial culture.”

On the note of neighborhood commercial, that’s something that Ithaca has been moving towards in the past decade, as new interest and investments in the regions’ urban and village centers dovetails nicely with where Gimme! Coffee performs well, and wants to be. “A number of folks have confessed that they thought the Cayuga Street location was an absolute dog and would have never succeeded [when it opened in 2000]. In Trumansburg, our location is dead center, it’s a picturesque town with so much cultural fabric going back so many years, Trumansburg is a special place. If you drive through that town at 5 o’clock on Friday, you’ll think there’s a carnival going on, you can’t find a parking space because of what the community members are doing, it’s a great hospitality scene,” says Cuddeback.

Cuddeback made it clear he’s an ardent supporter in Trumansburg; although not related to Gimme!, he was part of a business group who purchased the Odd Fellows Temple down the street last week. He says they have an eye out for tenants with vision.

So, with seven locations and hundred miles between the two clusters, how does one grow while keeping up product quality? Very carefully. “We’ve been roasting for 16 years now, we’ve spent a fair bit of time developing systems tending to quality – the coffee, the pastries, customer experience, sourcing and sustainability. It’s baked into the business model, and you just have to show up, keep working, and try and do better.”

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.