The story of how Fussy Coffee at Science Park came to be named is a joke between David Negreiro and his brother-in-law and business partner Joe Ballaro.
On one level, it’s a tongue-in-cheek riff on how pretentious some coffee shops can be. On another level, it’s about the two men’s love of a good coffee after a meal.
“Joe and I have always been in the food industry and we both have a love for food and finding new foods and good foods,” Negreiro said. “We were always hungry for coffee after lunch, so we’d always say ‘Let’s go get a coffee but let’s get something nice. Let’s get a fussy cup of coffee.’”
Ballaro said they’d been working on the concept for the shop for over a year and once they started talking with Yale about the location things came together. While this is their first business together, Ballaro is the owner of a bar in their hometown of Shelton called Bar 140 and Negreiro is the former owner of a small Milford bakery called Taste and See Cupcakes.
The new coffee shop, which is located at 290 Winchester Ave., is right at the crossroads of the Newhallville and Dixwell neighborhoods, in striking distance of new developments like Winchester Lofts, the Flats at Ashmun Street, and the future 201 Munson St. development, in addition to all the businesses at Science Park. It also is adjacent to the Farmington Canal and a Bikeshare New Haven station.
Negreiro chuckled telling the story about the small tradition the two men established of treating themselves to a little luxury by way of coffee. But he said what he has encountered drinking “third-wave,” artisan coffees in shops that cater to people in cities like Seattle, Austin, and Nashville, Tenn., aren’t really funny. Attitudes can border on being a little snooty.
“The attitude is like, they’re doing me a favor,” he said. “So we said, ‘Let’s not do that.’ That’s not the way to treat people.”
And so at Fussy Coffee at Science Park, you’ll get coffee that can be pretty “fussy” in the way it has been grown, roasted, and prepared for your drinking pleasure. But the vibe won’t be fussy or pretentious. Negreiro sees the shop as a way to step up Connecticut’s coffee game in much the way the state is becoming well known for its beer.
Negreiro and Ballaro most of all hope that customers will find the shop and its many iterations of how to drink coffee — standard drip, pour over, nitro, coffee-soda — fun. Once it secures a liquor license, Fussy Coffee plans to serve coffee cocktails too. If that weren’t enough, the shop has an extensive food menu, which will be a change of pace for the Science Park crowd.
There was a short-lived outpost of G Café in the area but it didn’t sell much more than coffee. The only other food option in the area is a popular barbecue restaurant.
Fussy Coffee has a menu that includes vegan and vegetarian items as well as food for those who like a little adventure, Negreiro said. That means someone can order the Bar 140 burger, someone else can order an arugula and white bean salad, and a third person might give the bibimbap bowl a try.
“Science Park doesn’t really have much as far as food,” Negreiro said. “There’s a big need. It’s close to Yale’s campus if you think about it. And downtown’s kind of absorbed already. By the time you get there, you just get crumbs. Or if it’s not crumbs the price is crazy. And there’s a need over here. And we thought we’d fill the need. It’s nice. You have the grass, bike path.”
He and Ballaro decided to bridge that big gap by providing something more than coffee and a bit more variety than a meat-centric menu. Even without doing any formal advertising, they’ve been slammed with business whether it’s people walking in from Science Park or riding in on their bikes from the Farmington Canal, Negreiro said. About 14 people work at the shop, many of them from New Haven, he said.
Ballaro said he’d like to see Fussy Coffee be part of the “great tradition of excellent food” for which New Haven is known.
Once the shop’s liquor license is in place, it plans to offer a full brunch menu with bloody Mary’s and mimosas. Ballaro, a musician, plans to play some live sets. On Saturday nights, Negreiro plans to host a “listening room” where people can come and enjoy a cocktail and listen to a complete album.
So why did they choose New Haven to set down business roots?
“It’s the best city in Connecticut,” he said. “Where else are you going to go?”