Two downtown coffee shops honored by city

Co-owner Susan Devlin Neistat waits on a customer at Muddy Waters on Bank Street.
Co-owner Susan Devlin Neistat waits on a customer at Muddy Waters on Bank Street. peter m. weber

Barry Neistat, owner of Muddy Waters Cafe, was perfectly giddy when he was recognized by the City Council and the mayor's office last week for his business' contribution to the economic well-being of the city.

"Why, thank you, thank you. Come down tomorrow. I will buy the coffee,'' Neistat announced after receiving a certificate of appreciation from City Council President Michael Passero.

Muddy Waters was one of two businesses chosen by the Economic Development Commission for their "significant role in fostering the economic development of New London."

Bean & Leaf coffee shop, which opened in 2007 on Washington Street and moved to Bank Street last fall, was also awarded a proclamation from the mayor and the council.

"We appreciate the support of the town," said Melissa Cokas, who owns Bean & Leaf with her husband Christiaan Cokas, along with Hugh, Patricia, and Caitlin Griffin of Chester.

"We are really pleased,'' she said. "We've put a lot of time and effort into our business and it's nice to be recognized."

The proclamations were the first awarded in a new program based on the concept of "econonic gardening," which encourages development of existing businesses as a way to boost overall economic development. Two businesses will be chosen quarterly by the Economic Development Commission. The program was organized by members Linda Mariani and Joan Sullivan-Cooper.

"It's critical to support our existing businesses and help them grow - that's the principle behind economic gardening,'' said commission chair, Frank McLauglin. "Many jobs in our local economy are produced by the small businesses of New London. In additon, our local businesses provide our community with its distinct flavor and culture."

Muddy Waters is a private company owned by Neistat and his wife, Susan Devlin Neistat. Its name is inspired by its coffee and waterfront location. "Muddy" signifies "mud," a slang term for coffee, and "waters" signifies the Thames River.

The building that houses Muddy Waters at 42 Bank St., was built in 1833 and is part of New London's Heritage Trail. For more than 100 years, the Federal Greek revival-style building was a bank. Neistat's grandfather opened a hardware business in the building in 1941, selling enamel pots and pans. In 1955, his father took over the business, expanded it, and changed the name to Thames Crockery. Barry took over Thames Crockery in 1975, and managed it until 1996, when it became the Bank Street Bowery. Muddy Waters opened in 2004.

"We host everyone from college students to politicos," said Susan Devlin. "We encourage people in our city to engage with each other and stay for a while. They may be strangers when they enter, but they are friends when they leave."

Bean & Leaf, which moved from Washington Street to Bank Street last year, is committed to the ethics of sustainable agriculture, fair trade and "clean" food, Cokas said. The coffee served at the cafe is fresh-roasted locally in the Bean & Leaf warehouse on Howard Street in New London.

Cokas, who lives with her family in a geodesic dome in Chester where they raise chickens and are beekeepers, said the concept of sustainability is important to the business. The family brings that perspective to Bean & Leaf by supporting "New London Local First," buying vegetables and eggs from local farms, serving organic food, and avoiding genetically altered food.

"All the coffees and the majority of the teas we purchase are fairly traded and organic," she said.

Bean & Leaf also collaborates with other New London area businesses and buys most of its baked goods locally. With a larger kitchen in its new location, Cokas said she expects to offer more baked goods cooked on the premises.


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