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The photograph itself calls for a double-take: A gallon of cold brew coffee jutting from a suburban mailbox, a playful visual to announce that Ace Coffee Co. has begun home delivery. Order by early Saturday afternoon, and the cold-brew will appear, still chilled, on your doorstep (or porch, or giant mailbox), for $26.
The jocular photo also tells a more complex story, though — how the owners of the East Patchogue roastery had to quickly pivot their business to weather coronavirus-related closures.
Before mid-March, the bulk of Ace Coffee Co.'s business relied on supplying beans and cold brew to Long Island and New York City companies, most notably Facebook. Then, Facebook temporarily closed its New York offices in early March, and other corporate orders dried up.
"We basically had to switch the whole program to direct-to-consumer real quick, and learn the hard way," said Brian Lentini, who co-owns Ace with partner Michael Troast. "That had always been the plan, anyway, but we had to do it in half the time."
Ace had also temporarily lost restaurant accounts — such as Blue Point Brewing Co. in Patchogue, where Ace cold brew is on tap — to mandated closures; only a handful of places, such as Grindstone Coffee & Donuts in Sag Harbor, remained open. So Troast and Lentini were forced to drastically scale down, letting one full-time and several part-time employees go. On March 10, the company announced free shipping of roasted beans — a deal they kept extending as the weeks wore on. "We went from doing 10 orders to 160 orders a week, which is great," Lentini said.
Yet Ace had originally made its name with its robust cold brew, a highly filtered, 24-hour brew made from Honduran and Peruvian beans. "We don't use any additives, so it's not technically shelf stable," Lentini said, and it should be kept (and shipped) cold shortly after packaging.
Ace has not been the only Long Island coffee company that's had to get creative with their business, at least for the short term. As shelter-in-place continued, others — from Southdown Coffee in Huntington to Flux Coffee in Farmingdale — also rolled out offers such as free shipping. Sail Away Coffee Co., well-known for their nitro cold-brew, partnered with North Fork Doughnut Co. to pair its product with doughnuts for weekend delivery.
Last week, Lentini and Troast finally found a delivery service that could keep the cold brew chilled and deliver it shortly after it's decanted into recyclable plastic jugs. Customers who place their orders by 1 p.m. on Sunday, via Ace's website will get delivery the following Monday, "and they'll be notified when the drop happens so they'll be able to grab it," Lentini said. Add-ons, such as beans or merch, do not incur extra shipping charges — though free shipping on beans has ceased, as it became prohibitively expensive.
"I feel like if we can continue on this path, we've diversified our business, and when this is all over, maybe we actually helped our overall business as a whole," Lentini said.
Cold brew can be ordered at acecoffee.co.