A new coffee house across from the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station, Druthers Coffee, opened its doors to the community on Aug. 14.
Druthers serves a wide selection of drinks, including fresh brewed coffee, espresso drinks, specialty lattes and seasonal specialty drinks. They also feature an extensive tea program with Clipper Ship Tea Company of Huntington. It’s co-owned by Kathryne Piazzola, her son Zachary Russell and his husband Michael Buchholz.
Russell and Buchholz lived in New York City for 10 years, where Russell worked as a graphic designer and an art director. Buchholz started as an actor, eventually finding himself as a rag & bone retail director. He started working at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Westchester, and then worked at Maialino at Gramercy Park in Manhattan. This made him fall in love with hospitality and specialty coffees, leading to the conception of Druthers.
“I grew up right in Port Jeff. We wanted to move back home and we knew we wanted to open a coffee shop out here,” Russell said. “We felt like it was something that was missing in the area right near the university. We wanted to be a hub for the community, a bridge between university and the [local] community — a place where anyone can meet and anyone can go.”
Druthers is leaning heavily on local, seasonal and organic ingredients to drive their menu. They’re unsure if there will be a traditional pumpkin spice latte, though they are looking to offer a seasonal latte. The shop features baked goods crafted fresh each morning by Russell.
“It’s amazing. Zachary is my son, so of course I’m going to brag about him, but we are selling out of the scones on a daily basis,” Piazzola said. “He used to make an olive oil cake every Christmas. Now he’s made them in muffins here to share with everyone else.”
Buchholz describes himself as a “chocolate fanatic.” This served as inspiration for the blue-iced cocoa — a white chocolate-infused herbal tea with oat milk. Buchholz adds Butterfly Pea Flower Extract to the drink, which is a vibrant blue that makes the drink “Druthers blue” — the same color as the coffeeshop’s walls.
“It’s a little bit of branding and a little bit of beautiful,” Buchholz said.
The coffeeshop aims to create a space that feels homey and comfortable. The owners painted the walls with a patriotic shade of blue that is meant to elicit a historic Americana feeling. Since the store is close to Stony Brook’s railroad station, the owners also wanted to evoke the feeling of classic train station waiting rooms, like New York’s Grand Central Station.
All of the furniture in the shop is custom-made from reclaimed wood at the Springfield Antique Market.
“The space is minimal in its design but elements are warm and welcoming,” Russell said.
The shop is a walking distance away from Stony Brook University’s West Campus. Students at the university have been using the spot to study or take their remote learning classes over Zoom.
“I really liked how they have a lot of options with the tea and the coffee and I really liked the atmosphere and the seating,” Victoria Katz, a junior psychology major at Stony Brook University, said. “It’s great that it’s close to campus.”
The shop currently features three small round tables and a large table for communal seating inside the shop, with additional outdoor seating to supplement the limited indoor capacity due to the pandemic.
“It’s pretty cute,” Sarah Knoth, a senior psychology major, said. “I would come here to study or do Zoom classes since there is seating and a lot of Starbucks in my area don’t have seating.”
Before deciding to invest with her son and son-in-law, Piazzola worked for 20 years at Stony Brook University in the Center for Inclusive Education, and later in the Office of Proposal Development assisting faculty in obtaining research grants.
“We’re a family business and an independent shop,” Piazzola said. “We felt something like this was needed in the community and we are just thrilled to be here.”
Correction 9/15/20, 10:58 a.m.: A previous version of this article misspelled Druthers Coffee as Druther’s Coffee.