There’s a new hot spot in town that has quickly made an impression on the community. Karmic Grind opened its doors last November and has received a steady flow of customers ever since, seeming to fill a void the coffee shop’s owners felt was present in the center of Locust Valley.
“It all started with a conversation,” said co-owner Alicia Scanlon.
She took a walk with co-owner Regina Smith, who also owns Gritty Buddha yoga studio in Glen Cove, while preparing for a hiking trip to Europe in September 2017. The two women spoke about their histories, their paths and their community and thought there was a need for a coffee shop—not just a place to grab a good cup of coffee, but more of a communal gathering place.
“It was born that second,” said Scanlon.
And it was always meant to be in Locust Valley.
“In the end, it wasn’t just ‘let’s start a coffee business,’ it was, ‘let’s make our neighborhood special’,” said Scanlon.
Within a week, they were looking at properties and by May 2018, they had secured the corner spot at 2 Birch Hill Rd., opening six months later.
With large windows in the front, Karmic Grind has a lot of natural light and an open, welcoming feel. But a quick glance at the vibrant art on the walls, the niche items on the shelves and the locally made baked goods on the counter makes it clear that this coffee shop is something different than anything else in the area; it’s a place that clearly stays true to the owners’ vision of authenticity.
“Something that was really important for us is that everything we curate has a story; the highest quality, hyper-local, some type of giveback or combination of all of it, and that’s how we’ve sourced everything in here,” said Smith.
From the coffee beans to the natural cleaning products customers can purchase, every item sold fits into their vision and core beliefs. They research the products and the companies who make them, a process that started with the beans, which come from Devoción, a Brooklyn-based roaster that gets its beans from Colombia.
“We took a long list of who’s doing amazing things in the coffee world, what roasters taste delicious and source in a really ethical way and produce in a special way, and we shortlisted it, then vetted them out,” said Smith.
She said Devoción is the only company they found that overnights beans off the farms to their roasting facility and flagship location in Brooklyn. Every one of the five-pound bags has a green date (the date the beans were picked) and a roast date.
“Industry standard is six months from farm to roast; our standard is three weeks,” said Smith. “We loved sitting with the founder of the company and understanding why he did this, understanding they’ve chosen to bypass Fair Trade certification so they can pay their farmers more than Fair Trade wage.”
Then, Smith said, “We took it a step further. Right now we’re working on a blend that will come from one specific farm. We will then help sustain that farm’s microeconomy, because we’re selling their beans, supporting their farmers exclusively. It’s really exciting.”
Both Scanlon and Smith are mothers, and Smith now runs two businesses on top of caring for a 7-month-old baby. She attributes her ability to make everything work to her staff at both locales. At Gritty Buddha, which celebrated its second anniversary the same weekend Karmic Grind opened, she said she has built a team that provides “unbelievable support.”
“The teaching team that holds it down at Gritty Buddha is the best I’ve ever worked with,” she said.
Karmic Grind has 11 people on staff—far more than what Smith and Scanlon had originally envisioned. In the beginning, they thought maybe the two of them would be the only two baristas behind the counter.
“We didn’t know we would open the door and have a line to the door for the next eight weeks straight,” said Scanlon.
In the short time they’ve been open, they’ve secured regular customers in addition to those curious about the new place. On a recent Friday afternoon, the tables and counter seats were filled and a steady stream of customers came through the door.
“One thing that really resonates with me is that this coffee shop brings people to town,” said Scanlon, who lives within walking distance of her café.
She said people have told her they feel more inclined to wander around town and browse the shops rather than just running a specific errand.
Smith acknowledged that being able to bring in more foot traffic to the surrounding businesses is good for their business as well, and having a place to convene makes it easier to do so.
“For whatever reason, the mindset is more open to that village feeling,” said Scanlon. “It’s a special little town. And it’s only been two months, but it feels like we’ve always been here.”