When he moved to New York City 21 years ago, Third Rail Coffee owner Humberto Ricardo would take the scenic route to the subway from his apartment in Alphabet City, so he could walk down Stuyvesant Street, one of the oldest streets in the city.
“Basically, I fell in love with it,” he says. Six years ago, when Ricardo began making plans to open a coffee shop, he dreamed of securing a location on Stuyvesant.
At the time, a cobbler named Angelo Fontana had a shop at the corner of Stuyvesant and 10th, facing St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, and Ricardo befriended him. “Local business owners tend to have a beat on what’s going on in the neighborhood,” he says.
Ricardo hoped to acquire the cobbler’s shop after he retired. But when Fontana’s rent was hiked to an unsustainable level, he was forced into an early retirement. Ricardo chose not to bid on the space then — it seemed like “bad karma.” The location eventually became Stogo, a vegan ice cream shop, and Ricardo opened Third Rail Coffee in Greenwich Village.
Fast-forward five years: as fate would have it, just as Ricardo was looking to expand Third Rail Coffee, 159 East 10th Street went back on the market, and Ricardo pounced on it. He took possession of the space on January 1 and began working on it two months later. It seemed like a sign. “I didn’t think about it too much,” he says. “Everything lined up, the timing was right.”
While the second location of Third Rail Coffee is not officially open — that won’t happen until after the July 4th holiday, Ricardo says — they are “working out the kinks” with a soft opening right now.
The new location is bigger than the original, but otherwise it’s much the same: muffin-heavy bake case, Stumptown and Counter Culture coffee, relaxed and friendly atmosphere. The tables and stools are custom-built from reclaimed walnut and hard pine, and the space will host events, too, starting with a book launch for Liz Clayton’s Nice Coffee Time, on July 10.
“I want it to have a neighborhood coffee shop feel,” Ricardo says, of Third Rail’s second location. “I’m glad to be back in the East Village.”