Introducing the Bench Talks Series

This July marks an exciting moment in our history–it’s our 20th anniversary! As we get ready to celebrate, we’re taking a moment to reflect on the community that has gotten us this far. From the folks who helped establish our first cafe on Waverly Place as a pioneering specialty coffee shop in New York to the community of regulars who have supported us through two decades of business in this city, it’s pretty clear to us that we’re surrounded by some pretty special people.

Enter “Bench Talks,” a new series dedicated to highlighting the diverse, talented, and incredibly kind humans who make our community so unique. Inspired by the benches outside of our cafes which have become symbols of conversation and welcome reminders to slow down to enjoy a cup of Joe, Bench Talks are informal chats sharing the stories and memories of the people who have helped make Joe what it is today. 

Find them all here as they’re released and on Instagram @joecoffeecompany!

Episode 1: Jonathan and Gabby Rubinstein

Co-Founders of Joe Coffee Company

“We were known as the first third-wave specialty coffee company in New York City. And at that time no one would ever dream that there would be fifteen-hundred other great coffee bars in New York City twenty-years later. And to think that we have something to do with paving the way.”

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Episode 2: Alice and Richard Rubinstein


Jonathan & Gabby’s Parents

“The first day, the day that we opened, Alice was one of two or three baristas actually making the coffee and as I recall your sister was here and was cleaning tables at the time. So, it was an exciting time.”

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Episode 3: Eleane Miersch

Dry Mill Manager & Head of Quality Control at Fincas Mierisch

A few weeks after we filmed this Bench Talk, Eleane passed away unexpectedly. In sharing this with you, we honor her memory and her significant contributions to this industry.

“I have been involved with the business for more than sixteen years, and can say that I absolutely love everything I do.”

We are grateful for Eleane’s passion, strong leadership, and easy friendship, all of which contributed to the Joe we know today, and a generation of coffee people who learned from her.

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Episode 4: Amanda Byron

Joe Employee #1 & Director of Coffee

“I remember us saying that we were going to be open only during the hours that I could be there because I was the only person who could do latte art. Back then, were were one of the few cafes that was really doing what I would consider specialty coffee at the time. People had never seen latte art before, so they thought that was really amazing. I got a lot of ‘did you do that on purpose?’”

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Episode 5: Ed Kaufmann

First Roaster & Green Buyer

“Jonathan and I became friends just through the small coffee industry back in 2006, ’07 and ’08. And we were just having some wine one night and I had been working on a business plan to open my own coffee company, and I just by the third bottle of wine I hired myself to be the roaster for Joe!”

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Episode 6: Samantha Dion Baker

Author, Illustrator, and Hicks Street Regular

“Our neighborhood needed a coffee shop like this so badly, and then suddenly Joe was opening and I got so excited I came over and drew the exterior, because I do that when something exciting is happening in my world I draw it. I love drawing storefronts, so I drew it. I tagged Joe, somebody saw it, Jonathan saw it, and then they ended up selling it as a card for a while.”

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Episode 7: Danny Meyer

Founder of USHS, proud investor of Joe Coffee Company

“I do not think I had my first experience of walking into a Joe Coffee until many many years probably after I had been a steady customer at Grand Central. This all started because back in the days when you would see a tall cup of Starbucks on every other desk in the office. There was one person on our team who would bring in this blue cup, and I would have no idea what it was. And I said, ‘what is that?’ and he said, ‘here, try it’ and it was amazing coffee.”

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Episode 8: Andrea Rubi

Second generation coffee grower, longtime Joe Coffee partner

“In 2012, my parents took at trip to New York City with my little sister Angie, because she was fifteen at that time, and she asked for a trip to New York. It was the first time that my dad and my sister had come to the city, and my dad was amazed because of the energy that this city provides. They went back home and my dad was like, ‘I sat with your mom at Bryant Park, and I was hoping that one day we can come back to New York, and we can actually say that we are going to have a cup of coffee of Ruland, served at a shop in New York’. And that’s how in 2015, we bought a second land and started growing specialty coffee.”

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Episode 9: Akeem Showers

General Manager of 13th Street and Union Square West

“Being apart of the community is big to me, it’s like being a part of a family. I remember just stating off at Joe and meeting Jonathan and Gabby Rubinstein, and having a conversation with them. That is always something that struck me and I will always carry with me, in a lot of companies you rarely meet the owners…That’s something that I always tell everybody; just be generous, be kind, be patient. Anything you want to learn you always can learn, just put your best foot forward.”

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Episode 10: Randy Garuitti

CEO of Shake Shack, friend of Joe

“My wife had just gotten here, and was in a bar with her mother of all people on Hudson Street, not too far from here, and the nicest person started talking to her as a new New Yorker. Turns out his name was Jonathan. They hit it off, and he said, ‘I am opening this coffee shop, and you should come by’.  My wife and I ended up living over on Bank Street for four years, and we would come here all of the time, back in the beginning days.”

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Episode 11: Jacob Soboroff

NBC News Correspondent and Joe Coffee Regular

“I have been sitting on this bench since this coffee shop opened. One the corner of Gay and Waverly. It was, I don’t know, 2003, and I was living right over there on Mercer Street. This is the place where I had my first cups of coffee in my entire life.”

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Episode 12: Carrie Webster

Joe Coffee Roastery General Manager of Production

“I have been working here since 2011. I started out as a barista, and then I became an assistant manager, and then I became manager of Columbia, and 13th, and then Lexington. Then I moved over to the Roastery a couple years ago. I just wanted to try something new, expand my horizons and knowledge of the coffee industry. I missed my regulars a lot , but I like this new adventure of organizing, and it is a different kind of helping my team. I like that, the behind the scenes thing.”

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Episode 13: Chef Danielle Sepsy

Chef and owner of the Hungry Gnome

“Jonathan, the founder of Joe Coffee, he has a very special place in my heart, and in fact when I talk about him I get a little emotional. And I don’t even think he realizes this, but it’s because he has changed my life in so many ways. In 2020, at the start of the pandemic, I emailed Jonathan. He didn’t realize, but I had just lost my job at the company I was working for, and I was not on my own yet with the Hungry Gnome full time…I told him about my baked goods and asked him if I could bring some samples… Few days later I am in the office, I bring him samples, and that night he emailed me, and it’s an email that I have saved because it’s so special to me. He said that in the sixteen-ish years he had been in business, that he had never had better baked goods than I had brought him. In that moment my life changed because I signed on my first big wholesale customer, which was Joe Coffee.”

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Episode 14: Zachary Carlson and Jordan Michelman

Co-founders of Sprudge, co-authors of But First, Coffee

“Sprudge is an international publication dedicated to coffee culture all over the world, we are based in Portland, Oregon, with contributors all across the world and readers all over the world. We founded in 2009, and we publish coffee news, cultural reporting, city guides, hot new gear, all of the rest of it, every single day. You can find us at Sprudge was originally a word we made up to define the leftover espresso grounds and espresso sludge that you get on your apron and shoes when you are behind a bar at a cafe.”

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Episode 15: Juanita O. Lewis

Executive Director of Community Voices Heard

“Community Voices Heard is a twenty-nine year-old, power building, community organizing group in New York State. We were founded back in 1994 by women who were on public assistance, and did not like how welfare was changing without their ideas and without what needed to happen to make it better. So they were fighting back against really bad policies that were impacting them and their families. So we grew from being just one issue organization and one location to now being in four places across New York State, and focusing on housing injustice, economic justice, and participatory democracy.”

Watch Part 1 on Instagram

Watch Part 2 on Instagram

Watch Part 3 on Instagram

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