If you live in New York City you know there’s a new, independent coffee shop on every block whether you’re in Manhattan or Brooklyn. However, before 2003, this wasn’t always the case, says Jack Mazzola, owner and founder of Jack’s Stir Brew. He notes that 18 years ago when he set out to open his own shop, there weren’t many other brands he could draw inspiration from (apart from the “green giant” of Starbucks). Instead, he leaned into what he knew was a tried-and-true guarantee of success — quality ingredients, ethical farming, community-oriented service — and opened his small coffee shop with big hopes.
“I always called it my interpretation of the coffee experience,” Mazzola explains. “I’ve worked in the service business my whole life… I come from an Italian family where being organic, sustainable, and having community was something we practiced.” Before he opened Jack’s Stir Brew, the entrepreneur spent three months building relationships with coffee farms in Mexico and the Dominican Republic, curating his Stir Brew Roast, which has been the brand’s roast for nearly 15 years.
In fact, it is this experience and these relationships that have translated to a strong partnership with the farms he now sources his beans from. “If you’re buying something of authenticity, just knowing that it’s authentic is important,” he explains. “We pay the premium so that farmers and their families and their communities are getting rewarded for their work. It’s a priority and a commitment of ours.”
Not only was the young entrepreneur interested in what he could bring to the coffee industry, he was interested in how he would do it. As he started looking into the equipment he would need to open his shop, he realized he wasn’t happy with the generic brands and practices he was seeing. Disappointed with conventional brewing methods, he started testing out different French presses, wondering why more coffee makers weren’t stirring their coffee. Something as simple as stirring the coffee, he realized, eliminated the bitterness and left a bold, smooth taste. He brought his ideas to engineers who helped him create the first prototype of the now patented stir brew method.
All of Mazzola’s hard work and dedication to quality has paid off — there have been lines out the door from day one, they’ve opened 10 locations in 18 years, and the brand has made regulars out of celebrities like Hillary Swank, Alec Baldwin, and Jerry Seinfeld.
New York Magazine even voted Jack’s Stir Brew as having the best cup of coffee in 2005, just two years after the first store was opened. “We have such a variety of customers, real New Yorkers, you know,” Mazzola states proudly. “One of the things people realize is that Jack’s is a New York coffee company.”
The brand’s well deserved street cred means that when it comes to pioneering new products, if you see it at Jack’s, you can rest assured that the product is tested and approved by Mazzola himself, as was the case when the fullest approached him with the Saffron Latte.
“We get approached a lot, so my general manager knows what to bring me and what not to bring me,” admits Mazzola. “I tasted the Saffron Latte and thought it was fantastic. I knew it was going to be well-received… it’s got my stamp of approval.”
Partnering with people who align with your brand and your goals is incredibly important to Mazzola, which means finding teams who are just as interested as himself in offering organic, health conscious products.
“It’s a challenging market, but we stay true to what we started,” says Mazzola. “Consistency, loyalty to our guests, and making them feel that they are important… which they are. Without the customer, we don’t exist.”
Logan Cross is a writer, editor, and dancer based in Los Angeles. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter, or listening to every fictional podcast her phone allows her to download.