L.I.'s first pay-what-you-can café planned for Patchogue

Plans for Long Island’s first pay-what-you-can community café just got a huge boost in the form of a pledge from Hampton Coffee Company to set up the café’s coffee program with free equipment and free training.

Not only that, the planned eatery — which is being called Harmony Café — will be “paying what it can” for the coffee shipments.

Prior Coverage: Pay-what-you-can café envisioned for Patchogue

Hampton Coffee co-owner Jason Belkin admitted Tuesday the arrangement is going to be costly, to the tune of $6,000 for the equipment and training, and about $500 a week until Harmony Café can make any payments.

But, he added, “we think this is an amazing undertaking and such a positive contribution to our community.”

“Going to a coffeehouse is such a nice activity for people who can afford it,” said Belkin, whose company operates coffee shops in Westhampton Beach, Southampton and Water Mill. “We’re so happy that this experience will be open to more people now.”

The vision for Harmony Café, being planned by a not-for-profit organization by the same name founded by Patchogue resident Rosemarie McCarthy, was inspired by the One World Everybody Eats organization, which was originally based in Salt Lake City and helps set up community cafés across the U.S.

According to the model, diners either pay full fare or more for meals, or less than is being asked, or nothing at all —all depending on what people can afford. People who don’t pay full fare then volunteer at the café to help keep it running.

The idea is to fight food insecurity with an eatery that becomes a place for people of all stripes to eat healthy, sit with one another, exchange perspectives on life, and, ultimately, help strengthen their communities.

McCarthy said Belkin, a member of the Westhampton Beach Business Advisory Board, is also offering professional advice to McCarthy and the rest of the not-for-profit’s board of directors.

She said offering premium coffee products will be a big draw for diners when the restaurant is up and running.

“Hampton Coffee is well known for it’s great taste, and people who come into the café will be able to taste great coffee they might not have been able to afford before,” she said. “And I love that he offered us the option to pay what we can for the coffee beans. Once we are established we’ll be able to pay something.”

“That is what it is about,” she continued. “This is the true spirit of the cafe. Jason gets it, and understands our mission to the community.”

McCarthy is looking to open Harmony Café in Patchogue Village.

Anyone looking to get involved in Harmony Café is invited to attend a meeting Sept. 8 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Panera Bread on Sunrise Highway in Bohemia. RSVP to harmonycafe8@aol.com or by phone at (631) 372-0227.


Top photo courtesy of Grace Café in Kentucky.