"To create something of our own, where we live, was important to us," said Shanelle County, sitting next to her cousin, Darlene Gomez, outside of their new Valley Stream café, Standard Pour.
They also knew they wanted to create that place on Rockaway Avenue, the commercial heart of the town they've lived in for decades. After months of renovation and planning, Gomez and County opened Standard Pour on Oct. 15, with takeout-only sandwiches, coffee, espresso and tea; soon, that will include sit-down service — including weekend brunch — as well as a wine bar and events.
Customers who pass by Standard Pour's window display — a flock of coffee mugs that hover in the air — may have déjà vu: This storefront once held Sip This, a coffee shop so locally venerated that when it closed this summer, masked well-wishers waited on an hourslong line to say their goodbyes. Before that, for about 25 years, the spot was Slipped Disc Records. "The address we are able to occupy — it has a huge history. It's very significant and important," to the community, said County. That it eventually became the home to Standard Pour seemed fitting for their vision. "This all kind of fell into place."
Gomez and County certainly do not want for things to do. They each have day jobs — Gomez as a human-resources consultant, and County as a director of curriculum — yet their urge to open a cafe, and a business driven by inclusiveness, stemmed from a shared vision. "We spent a lot of time ensuring our vendors are people of color, minority-owned and women-owned, from buildout to partnerships," County aid . "We wanted to be a welcoming space to all in the community, with an experience that is second to none."
For them, COVID was an opportunity for what County calls "a slow rollout," a tiered unveiling of their beverages, food and airy interior, which blends modern lines (and an l-shaped coffee bar) with the hints of history inherent to the 1930s-era building.
Though tables and chairs were still piled together as of late October, some will be set up in line with COVID-era restrictions come the grand opening on Nov. 14. For now, there is a long leather banquette for customers waiting on food or drink. Drip coffee, espresso, cortado, lattes, macchiato, single-origin brews, cold brew and the like ($2.50 to $4.15) are made with beans from Counter Culture Coffee, a North Carolina-based purveyor known for its pursuit of fair and sustainable coffee sourcing. Standard Pour deserves whatever prize exists for milk variety: Regular, oat, almond, soy, coconut and macadamia-nut milks are all on hand. Loose-left teas come from Brooklyn Tea, a Black-owned tea company that produces flavor combinations such as cucumber-melon green, vanilla rooibos and white-peach in addition to the usual black and green. "We prefer to brew it, to bring out the best of the experience that you can get," Gomez said, though the staff will put a sachet into a cup for those in a rush. Matcha and chai lattes ($4 to $5) are also available.
Pastries ($3.75 to $5.25), such as cheddar-cheese-dill scones and a pumpkin chocolate-chip loaf, are baked by Warberry Cakes & Fancy Confections, another Black-owned business. With the exception of one pastry: Bread pudding baked by the cousins' aunt, Marva Cudjoe, that's only available on the weekends. "It's a special family recipe," said County, and staff anoint it with a white chocolate-bourbon sauce.
Chefs Dwayne Daniel and Raya Alleyne oversee a breakfast-to-lunch menu heavy with sandwiches and paninis, such as the $8.95 baconeggandcheese (yes, one word) of an over-medium egg, spicy bacon jam and smoked cheddar on a pretzel bun; a turkey panini ($11.50) with house pesto, roasted peppers, spinach and provolone cheese on grilled bread; and a Cobb salad ($10.49) to which one can add jerk chicken.
Gomez said that as they roll out the menu, seeing what resonates with their clientele, the food offerings will grow, and soon include gluten-free and vegan baked goods.
Also on the horizon is a wine-focused full bar, weekend brunch and events on designated evenings, probably earlier in the week. "We do want to keep that spirit alive," said Gomez, alluding to Sip This' rota of readings and performances. With mingling demographics — families and teenagers during the day, a possible bar crowd at night — Gomez said that she and County were undertaking event planning conscientiously, something that the current moment affords them. "We want to be thoughtful of how we use the space."
Standard Pour is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, with hours to eventually stretch into evening, at 64 Rockaway Ave., Valley Stream. 516-596-2000. Instagram: @standardpourli