A little over a year after it closed its doors, The Bean has reopened its Second Avenue location, bringing a neighborhood staple back to NYU students and other East Village locals. The coffee shop’s reopening on Nov. 18 was the result of a rent break brought on by the pandemic, but with a second wave of COVID-19 threatening to hit New York City, it remains to be seen how long the silver lining will gleam.
Ike Escava, owner of the Bean, told us he let go of the location at Second Avenue and East 3rd Street after breaking up with his business partner and becoming “financially not in the position to keep the stores.” Last November, the Bean closed its First and Second Avenue locations while keeping its cafe near Astor Place. It also operates a store on Broadway.
When the pandemic set in, the landlord of the Second Avenue location became more flexible, allowing Escava to sign a long-term lease and regain control of the storefront, which remains adorned in the work of local legend Jim “Mosaic Man” Power.
“The landlord was very willing to work with us to help us take the store so we can get through the pandemic,” he said. “It makes sense for both sides. We’ll have a store for a long time and they’ll have a tenant for a long time.”
Now, Escava hopes to avoid being among the one-third of New York City small businesses that may close. But the combination of the pandemic and lack of publicity have resulted in a slow reopening.
“I know that the reason for that is that many people, many of our customers, don’t even know that we are open,” Escava said. “But everybody who has found us, which is a minimal amount of people, have been very happy. People seem to be genuinely happy that we were able to survive and get back to that corner.”
For NYU studIents like Nina Robins, the Bean’s reopening is critical since the space helps to combat isolation. “It’s been a really good way to be social,” Robins shared. “I used to take study dates for granted before the pandemic. It’s so much harder to be social and to see friends. So having a place where you can multitask, be outdoors, be compliant and have food is really convenient.”
This year about 6,200 students are living in residence halls, down from the usual 11,000, according to NYU spokesperson John Beckman. As a result, the Bean is currently doing “less than half” of its usual business, Escava says. “We’ve been fighting to keep the business at a break-even, it’s very difficult. It depends on the schools and the students, which many of them are not in town. And a lot of our customers are, of course, being extra careful staying indoors and not coming out to the coffee shop.”
Escava hopes more customers will return, and that the crisis will be over sooner rather than later. “I’m very confident that the business will come back to where it was before we closed. I don’t know how much time it will take. I can’t predict how this pandemic pans out.”