First Village Coffee brews up community spirit in Ossining

by Aleesia Forni | March 9, 2017 2:42 pm

For many newly minted restaurant or cafe owners, opening their shop’s doors is the realization of a lifelong dream. But for Kathryn and Luis Corena, launching their coffee shop, First Village Coffee, along Main Street in downtown Ossining was more about meeting the needs of a changing village.

“It wasn’t like we had this dream and we were looking around as to where to do it,” Kathryn Corena said. “It was more, this has got to happen, and we’re just going to step up and do it.”

With the transformation of Ossining’s downtown landscape, including new residential developments and an influx of new residents, Corena said, she and her husband felt the village’s Main Street was missing a central gathering space, like a coffee shop.

“I was tired of running to other coffee shops outside of town,” Luis said.

The duo opened First Village at 123 Main St. last September in an attempt to fill that void. “We kind of kept waiting for somebody to do this and nobody did, so we’re like, this is the time,” said Kathryn, who, along with her husband, has called the village home for more than 15 years. “If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it now.”

After gutting the 800-square-foot interior of what had been a bakery and cafe, the Corenas aimed for the store’s aesthetic to be “a cool place, but also a very warm place.”

Industrial fixtures hang from the ceiling and mismatched chairs dot the shop’s interior. Paintings created by local artists line the walls, including a piece depicting Ossining’s history and evolution through the years.

“It felt weird to be obsessing over so many little details, but once we opened, people were like, ‘I love all the little details of this place,’ and I was like, OK, it wasn’t a total waste of my time,” Kathryn said. “It’s been crazy. The response has been amazing.”

“People are meeting here after work, meeting friends,” Luis said, gesturing to a couple who had taken up seats at a table near the store’s entrance. “It’s exactly what I wanted for a downtown space.”

First Village offers a relatively limited menu compared to other similar spots, choosing instead to emphasize “quality over quantity,” Kathryn said.

“We wanted it to be really high quality and really low pretense, and I think that’s what people are responding to,” she said. “We also tell people to ask questions. If you don’t know what a macchiato is, ask. That’s what we’re here for”

The Corenas source their coffee from nearby Irving Farm Coffee Roasters, a New York City-based company that roasts in Millerton in Dutchess County.
“Specialty coffee is a very high level of quality, which makes it more expensive, but there’s a reason for it,” Kathryn said.

Along with its roastery, Irving Farm runs a training lab in New York City, which the Corenas and their three employees attended prior to the coffee shop’s opening.

“The thing about coffee is, you can get great coffee but if it’s not prepared in the right way it’s not going to taste the right way,” she said. “Irving Farm was the perfect fit for us, because they’re big enough to give us that added partnership, but small enough that I can drive to the roastery if I want to and see the process.”
First Village also sources its dairy products from Battenkill Valley Creamery, in Salem in upstate Washington County, and pastries from bakeries in Croton-on-Hudson, New Rochelle and New York City.

In addition to running the back end of the coffee shop, Kathryn has continued her work as a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits and small businesses. “I take on less clients now, but I do a lot of writing at 2 o’clock in the morning,” she said with a laugh.

Luis, whom Kathryn said is “just a people person,” has become the face of First Village, working behind the counter each day.
“He’s always had people say to him, ‘You should really be working with people and not in a warehouse,’” Kathryn said. “We kind of banked on that.” 

Before helming First Village, Luis spent a decade working for USIS Inc., a technology services company based in Pearl River, but entrepreneurship runs in his blood. Growing up, Luis worked alongside his single mother who owned and operated a variety of businesses, including a number of restaurants, in his home country of El Salvador.

Photos by Bob Rozycki

“He was the piece of the business plan that I couldn’t fully articulate,” Kathryn said. “I knew what he would be to customers, and that’s exactly what he’s become.”

With the addition of First Village, the couple hopes to add to what they see as the ongoing revitalization of downtown Ossining.
“I think there’s a really good energy here, and people are really excited. I think there’s a lot of hometown pride in Ossining, and I think that sometimes doesn’t get realized,” Kathryn said. “Being a community hub for people to come and express that, I think that’s going to be great.”

Housed in what was formerly Cidade Cafe, the coffee shop is also equipped with a full commercial kitchen behind the counter and an 800-square-foot, basement-level bakery. The couple hopes eventually to incorporate both pieces into their business and expand their offerings to include a breakfast menu or lunch fare.

“You have to crawl, then walk, then run, and if you don’t, I feel like you just fall on your face, so we’re going to get the coffee down, then maybe use the kitchen and maybe use the bakery,” Kathryn said. “I’m excited for what that would mean for the future.”

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