When Kevin Brennan bought his first vinyl at the age of 7, he dreamed of a future that would somehow revolve around rock 'n' roll. Brennan's entrepreneurial spirit led him on a quest for the next "big thing" as an adult, and he dabbled in various ventures before having an epiphany while traveling in 1989. He was in San Diego, and he visited his first coffeehouse.
Kevin fell in love with the simple coffeehouse concept and had a feeling that gourmet coffee shops would soon become a craze across the nation. He instantly knew that he had found his calling, but it wasn't until he sipped coffee while watching an Asia concert that he knew what would set his establishment apart from the rest: rock 'n' roll.
Today, his trio of shops showcases the marriage of a laid-back coffee-shop vibe with rock music and memorabilia, creating a caffeinated love child in a Led Zeppelin onesie. Each location also features rock-inspired drinks, such as the Van Halen and the Dark Side of the Moo, joined by sandwiches and salads prepared fresh daily.
NY Bagel Cafe & Deli's kitchen bakes its bagels fresh every day, fueling a savory expansion to locations across seven states. At the Newark site, a glass case displays doughy circles infused with ingredients such as sun-dried tomatoes and blueberries. Patrons can opt to decorate their bagels or the eatery's pumpkin-colored walls with cream-cheese spreads flavored with scallions, bacon, and strawberries. In addition, deli sandwiches enfold Boar's Head–brand meats and cheeses in italian bread, wraps, or rolls.
Christopher and Melanie Romano’s kids have long loved the music, iPads loaded with games, and fun flavors of Let’s Yo! When they’d frequent their neighborhood outpost, they felt assured they were feeding their kids a healthier alternative to ice cream. "Even in the winter, my kids wanted to go," Christopher says. "They would have gone every day if I'd have let them."
When the couple decided they wanted to quit the corporate world and open a business, Let’s Yo! seemed like a natural fit. They soon opened up shop, where customers self-serve 18 all-natural, organic flavors brimming with live active cultures. The flavors rotate regularly, with varieties such as sea-salt-caramel pretzel, red velvet cupcake, and California tart. Next, guests pile on premium toppings such as Andes mints, mixed nuts, and Kashi cereal—as well as about 10 different types of syrups, including Reese's peanut-butter topping and mango syrup. The staff members get fresh-fruit deliveries daily, which they chop up or splice via laser vision.
Along with iPads loaded with the latest apps, Christopher outfitted the shop with a flat-screen TV and free WiFi. He chats regularly with the customers who swing by for a cup or stop in after the gym for a yogurt protein shake. And he says it's definitely a change of pace from his Wall Street job. "The hardest choice you have to make is what topping you want," he says.