It was one of the last vestiges of a bygone Williamsburg– a grungy, cavernous little coffee shop with worn-down wood floors and a lifetime of coffee grounds seemingly plastered onto every surface. Verb Cafe, which opened in 1999, was nothing fancy– no one went there to get a pour-over or fawn over bespoke beans with tasting notes. But when the place closed in June 2014, there was more than a bit of sadness (which was compounded when life imitated every joke ever told about Brooklyn hipsters and the coffee shop was replaced by an artisanal soap boutique with handmade, organic cupcake soap).
But old-timers rejoice, because Verb Cafe is back and maybe even better than it was when it closed. Cisco Rodriguez, who had worked at Verb for 14 years, now runs and owns Verb 2.0 which quietly opened on Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint just after Thanksgiving. “I thought there’d never be another Verb,” he admitted. Neither did anybody else, it seemed– Brooklyn Magazine, for one, chalked up the closing of Verb to “the end of Williamsburg.”
“When we closed, one of our customers said they’d like to buy the place and thought I’d be the best person to run it,” Cisco explained. “They emailed me the rights to the name.” And here he was, manning the espresso machine while Derrick Del Rosario (another recognizable face from Verb’s former location) held down the cash register.
Old customers, longtime regulars, and new people alike have been streaming into the new Verb, which is flooded with natural light and impressively organized, two things that were not in abundance at the old location. There’s also more artwork around, and the owner hopes to commission artists to contribute more of it on a rotating basis. Cisco said that while he’s made some improvements, he made sure to bring back a lot of the things that made Verb, well, Verb. The same generous bagels fill a countertop case, and the shop has held onto what Cisco called the “crazy dinosaur egg lamps” and the sun-faded “V Cafe” flags. Similarly funky trinkets poke out from various corners.
Verb redux has also carried on the tradition of DIY outfitting– at the old location, they used cast-iron chairs to build the lofted seating area. “This place used to be a Polish money exchange business,” Cisco said. “We used the bullet-proof glass to build the counter.” Verb is also pouring the same Puerto Rican coffee from a fresher espresso machine (albeit the same model).
Some of this was by demand, “At first, we really wanted to just do nice pastries and coffee,” Cisco explained. But people weren’t having it. “They were asking ‘What happened to the Verb bagel? Where are those crazy sandwiches?'” Cisco was also careful to point out the shop now carry “eggs and capers,” something they never had before to the bewilderment of customers.
But overall, it’s the neighborhood that has proven to be the source of change for good. The new Greenpoint location, Cisco said, is “perfect.” “It’s more like what the Verb was,” he explained. “Everybody’s really different, people are outgoing, there’s just not a real cold interaction with people these days– maybe it’ll be that way 15, 20 years from now but hopefully we’ll stay for the long run.”
Verb might even expand its hours to late-night and may be serving dinner down the line too. But Cisco said he has no plans to acquire a liquor license and still wants to maintain Verb’s essential vibe. “I want this to be more of a PG-13 but dope place, where even if you’re here late at night you can get a cup of tea and still feel just as groovy as the the Jägermeister kids or whatever.”
Verb Cafe is located at 107 Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, hours (which are subject to change) Monday through Friday, 7 am to 5 pm, Saturday 9 am to 9 pm and Sunday 9 am to 5 pm.
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