The new owner of Massapequa Perk Coffee House in Massapequa Park doesn’t plan to make big changes to the business he acquired last week.
“It’s a great little shop,” said Pete Mangouranes, who along with his partners, Veronica Carratelli and Lorenzo Pugliano, officially took over the Front Street store on Sept. 1. “It’s thriving.”
For Mangouranes, 39, of Massapequa Park, the purchase of the coffee shop was more than a business acquisition. It was personal, an opportunity to keep another man’s legacy alive.
Mangouranes said he was close with the shop’s original owners, fellow Massapequa Park resident Fortunato "Lucky" DiBenedetto, and his wife, Lisa, who opened the coffee house in August 2008. Mangouranes regularly purchased coffee beans from the couple for the two other eateries he owns in downtown Massapequa Park — Jam and The Good Life.
DiBenedetto died on April 28, leaving behind two young children, his wife and the couple’s business. Lisa DiBenedetto continued to run the shop after her husband’s death, but ultimately decided she wanted more time with her kids, Mangouranes said.
After about a month of talks, Mangouranes said he worked out a deal with Lisa DiBenedetto to purchase the shop.
"One of reasons she actually wanted to sell it to us is because she knew we wouldn’t change it," he said. "This was her husband's passion."
Mangouranes said he did make DiBenedetto's widow agree to one stipulation, that she would allow him to set up a college fund for her two children that would be funded by a portion of the shop's sales going forward.
Mangouranes said there are several reasons why Massapequa Perk has been so successful. Its location — directly across from the Massapequa Park Long Island Rail Road station — is key.
The coffee itself has also earned a loyal following. Mangouranes said they use different beans from around the world and roast them in small batches, so the coffee is always fresh. About 60 percent of customers order just the drip coffee, he said, even though the shop also offers a large selection of flavored lattes — from caramel brûlée to “snowy coconut — and smoothies. On Monday morning, the shop was serving a Peruvian roast.
He also credited the staff.
“The staff has personality,” he said. “Jack, who works Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings, is the Bob Ross of coffee beans and his attitude is just infectious; he just wakes you up.”
Mangouranes said he does plan to make a few tweaks — installing refrigeration behind the counter, so the baristas can be more efficient, and he’s applying for a permit, so he’ll be able to bake some treats in house in addition to the muffins he has delivered from a Brooklyn bakery.
Other than that, Massapequa Perk will remain true to what the DiBenedetto’s created. That includes the small library of books that customers are allowed to borrow “on the honor system” and return whenever, he said.
“It’s a personal coffee shop,” Mangouranes said. “I think some of the chains are impersonal, but here, we’re in the business of ‘Hey, how are you?’”