A West Brighton café once seemed just a dream for this new mom, but her fair trade coffee, artisanal teas, and locally baked sweets have quickly become legendary
by Jessica Jones-Gorman • Photos By Alex Barreto
After Megan Coppola gave birth to her son five years ago, she would take him on daily walks, pushing the infant’s stroller around her West Brighton neighborhood, cruising along Forest Avenue for a bit of sunshine and to run some errands along the bustling shopping strip. And almost every day she would drop into The Coffee and Tea Market to pick up some local brew.
“I loved to stop in and sample all of the wonderful coffees and teas,” Coppola said. “Ironically I worked in this spot as a teen, and even though the business had changed hands since that time, I still loved to visit. It held such wonderful memories.”
But one day when the young mother was taking one of her daily strolls, she was shocked to see that the store had gone vacant.
“The coffee shop was gone and I felt like this huge part of my life was over,” Coppola recalled. “When I came home and told my husband, he encouraged me to meet with the landlord.” Given that she’d recently quit her job in marketing to stay at home with her son, the idea seemed outlandish at first.
“I decided not to work because we had fought so hard to bring this little person into the world; I wanted to give this little guy everything I could,” Coppola said. “But we were using our savings to get by and I knew it would eventually run out, so we took this huge chance and opened a little coffee shop where I could live out this dream but still be there for my son.”
Coppola completely rebuilt the interior, taking inspiration from her grandmother and decorating the space in a French country theme. She splashed the walls in bright shades of paint, added some sumptuous, high-backed armchairs, and lined the ceiling-high shelves with mason jars full of fragrant tea leaves.
“I wanted to make it warmer, lighter, and really encompass a family aspect,” Coppola said.
She named the shop Beans & Leaves Coffee and Tea Café and placed emphases on fair trade coffee, artisanal teas, locally baked sweets and house made waffles and pancakes.
“We hand craft each beverage, making it just the way the customer likes it,” Coppola said. “Our coffee is still our best seller, with specialty drinks like our Ice Café Cocoa—a coffee and cocoa combo—on the list of our most ordered items. But waffles have become a huge deal here, too. They are freshly made and completely customizable with a range of different toppings. We have S’mores, Cinnabon, and Churro varieties, but customers are also welcome to design their own.”
The café also offers allergy-friendly and gluten-free options, along with 30 different types of cocoa (think bacon, chipotle, and white chocolate hazelnut). Its smoothies are made from fresh seasonal fruit, and there’s even some savory selections like croissant sandwiches and assorted quiches. Coffee perks daily from 6:15 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
“We close up early (6 p.m.) on Sundays, because that’s family day and it’s important to be home for dinner,” Coppola said. “My employees are like my family, and I need to look out for them, too.”
The owner maintains that Beans & Leaves’ warm and comfortable environment, coupled with a focus on amazing customer service, are what keep the boutique coffee shop up and running—not an easy feat given the competition from nearby big brands like Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. But she is still regularly humbled by her store’s vigorous bottom line.
“The success of this business is still kind of unbelievable to me,” Coppola said. “I have customers who drive 40 minutes across Staten Island because they think our coffee is so good, and that just floors me. But I also pride myself on stalking Yelp and other social media just to make sure we are following through on promises and customer requests…giving our all to everyone who walks through that door.”
For Coppola, it’s all part of living that early vision.
“First and foremost, I am a full-time mom, but then I get to run this amazing store at the same time,” she said with a smile. “I get to be with my boys and still do what I love…for me that is a complete dream come true.”
Beans & Leaves Coffee and Tea Café
422 Forest Avenue / 718.448.0276 / beansandleavescafe.com