Above: Musician Dan Bailey played music through the evening as Java Nation celebrated its last hours in Sag Harbor on Sunday, April 15.
By Claire Walla
To the beat of a drum and the melodic sound of a mandolin, Andrew Bedini carried the last pieces of his infamous coffee roaster through the doorway of his former Sag Harbor coffee shop, down the brick steps of the alleyway where people used to gather for hours with steaming cups of brew, and into a pick-up truck waiting to cart the machine to the other side of town.
After 17-and-a-half years in Sag Harbor, Java Nation will no longer fill the village with the scent of slow-roasted beans. As of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, April 15, the coffee shop shut its doors in Sag Harbor.
Groups of locals and Java Nation regulars gathered in the alleyway as Bedini and a handful of volunteers deconstructed the entire coffee shop — including the 1,000-pound roaster — and took it piece-by-piece to 112 Maple Lane in Bridgehampton, Java Nation’s new home. The entire move took about two days, Bedini said, adding that Java Nation is on track to reopen at its new location, nestled against the Bridgehampton railroad platform, the first weekend in May.
Since news broke in January that the coffee shop would be forced out of its Sag Harbor location, bitter remarks have circulated in the community, pitting Java Nation against its (now-former) landlord, who will rent the space to a new coffee-shop venture. However, Java’s last hours were more a celebration than a teary-eyed farewell.
A white board propped up on one of the few remaining tables inside the coffee shop explained the Bedini’s position best: “Although heinous and unscrupulous business practices created this situation, we are excited for the chance to expand and reformat the business that is our passion.”
The Bedini’s had been scrambling for a new location for the past few months. Though they ardently pursued a few locations in Sag Harbor — including Marty’s Barber Shop, the Grenning Gallery and the first-floor corner space in the Bay Street Plaza — all prospects fell through.
The Bridgehampton spot surfaced about three weeks ago when Bedini said a friend simply drove by and noticed it was available. Soon after, Bedini met with building owner Ray Wesnofske, who, he said, “shook my hand and gave me the key the same day.”
The Bedinis officially signed a five-year lease agreement for the space on Friday.
At 1,200 square feet, the new location is about twice the size of the Sag Harbor shop and will primarily serve as a roasting location. That strip of businesses on Maple Lane is zoned “light industrial,” which means no more than 50 percent of the space can be used for retail.
While Java Nation will continue to sell bags of beans and serve cups of coffee — as well as a couple varieties of pastry — the new location won’t be able to function as a gathering space as it had in Sag Harbor.
While sitting at a wrought-iron table in the middle of the alleyway last Sunday evening, Debra Galloway enjoyed the last few hours at her favorite coffee shop. It has sentimental meaning for her, she said, having opened in Sag Harbor the very same week she moved into the village. In fact, her two children — Rakijah, 30, and Suleyman, 23 — had their first jobs there.
“It’s like home,” she said. “It’s family. Cheryl and Andrew were mentors to my children.
“Everyone’s very upset,” she added of the move.
But, when asked whether she would now travel to Bridgehampton for a cup of joe, she replied in an instant: “Absolutely.”
Sag Harbor resident and Java Nation fixture David Slater shared the table with Galloway during the festivities on Sunday. But, he said he wasn’t so sure he would follow Galloway’s example and head down the turnpike for his regular cup of coffee.
“Sometimes I might go,” he said. “But with the current gas crunch, it won’t be a regular thing.”
Slater is part of a group of Sag Harbor locals who used to frequent Java Nation, spending afternoons socializing in the alleyway. Now, with Java gone, he said he’ll probably buy his coffee from Sylvester & Co. or Espressos.
As for the chit-chat, “that group will find a way,” Slater said. “A lot of the people who hung out in this alleyway used to hang out on the benches on Main Street,” he explained. “I see that as a reoccurring thing.”