We Love Our Coffee, it’s just not Starbucks!

By mark-slade April 5, 2011

Business

Coffee Wars of Springfield Avenue 2.0? Hardly, Says One Barista

Kari’s Cafe and Kocafe can live in perfect peace and harmony — appealing to different palates.
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With the grand opening of Kocafe at 1908 Springfield Avenue on Sunday, the buzz around town has been the quesion of whether or not the Avenue can support two coffee shops.
It can, it will and it does are the answers we’re hearing at Patch.
First of all, Kocafe is being welcomed with open arms by an unlikely booster — Kari Capone of Kari’s Cafe at Springfield Avenue and Prospect Street.
“I think it’s great to have businesses coming into Springfield Avenue,” Capone said. “While Kocafe could be seen as competition, they are offering different choices — such as crepes and chicken sandwiches — that will set them apart. In the meantime, the new cafe has encouraged me to put my best foot forward and serve my customers in the best way possible.”
Capone continues, “I have not met the owner [Anthony Escribens] yet, but if he would ever like to have a coffee taste-off or barista challenge, it would be great fun!”
Kari’s is unveiling an expanded menu on Tuesday, April 5, offering freshly-prepared cafe-sized salads and panini for guests. Later in the week, croissants, danish, and other pastries from Balthazar Bakery will round out the baked goods category. With cupcakes and other goods from The Able Baker still remaining a part of the menu.
Local realtor Frank Speranza, born and raised locally (he went to school in the South Orange and Maplewood school district), is the man behind the savory food. Speranza will be serving up his special Summer Strawberry Salad ($3.95) and the Veggie Panini (goat cheese, roasted red peppers, and tomato with balsamic vinaigrette for $4.95).
Maplewood coffee fans will remember the hot competition between Springfield Avenue’s pioneering coffee shop NetNomads (the previous incarnation of Kari’s Cafe, owned and operated by Deanne Landress) and Cafe Meow, the “funky, cool, eclectic” coffee location run by by John and Christina Muccigrosso. But it was the nose-diving economy of 2008, not a shrinking slice of the Maplewood coffee-drinking market, that sent Cafe Meow into the collective coffee-loving memories of Maplewoodians, while Landress sold her business to focus on an alternate career path.
Back when Cafe Meow and NetNomads were going cup to cup, many  noted coffee was also already available at a number of locations on Springfield Avenue — for example, one can luxuriate over a cup at the Park Wood Diner or grab a quick cup to go at Maple Chek, Dunkin’ Donuts, or Quick Chek, among others.
It’s a long stretch of Avenue, with a lot of caffeine-dependent residents within reach.