2004-09-21 / Front Page

Duo hopes café will become a hub for artists

Espresso Joe
BY KAREN E. BOWES Staff Writer

BY KAREN E. BOWES
Staff Writer

KEYPORT — Ed Kok peered out the window of his West Front Street café.

“If that truck wasn’t parked right there you could see the water,” he said. “We’re the only shop on this side of the street that can see the water.”

It’s true, but it’s not really the point. The point, its owners say, is Espresso Joe’s is a slice of New York in downtown Keyport.

First of all, the view is not out on the street, but on the walls, which are covered with postmodern prints and paintings, all one-of-a-kind pieces made by local artists with modest price tags poking out from the corners.

PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY staff
Owner Ed Kok makes a latte at Espresso Joe’s in Keyport. Below, front of Espresso Joe’s Coffee Shop in Keyport
PHOTOS BY CHRIS KELLY staff Owner Ed Kok makes a latte at Espresso Joe’s in Keyport. Below, front of Espresso Joe’s Coffee Shop in Keyport “I’ve had a lot of customers tell me they like the way this place is put together,” Kok said. “They say it has this New York feel to it.”

The decor is unique, but it’s the coffee that keeps them coming back.

Regulars Dennis Reynolds and Greg Remaud claim they’re addicted. The pair work at Baykeepers next door and haven’t bothered to install a coffee machine because, according to Remaud, they can’t bear going back to mediocre brew. Plus, they like the place.

“I like that Sunny and Ed are funny,” Reynolds said. “Their ice tea is good, too. I drink a lot of ice tea.”

“I like that Sunny and Ed are fixtures here,” Remaud said. “They’re always here. It’s becoming a gathering place. There’s art on the walls, but the kind that not everybody likes, which is a good thing.”

The vibe is funky, but laid back. Case in point: on a midweek afternoon you can easily find co-owner Sunny Han playing chess with any customer who bates him, while the mayor, disguised in basketball sneakers, baseball cap and gym shorts, discusses politics with a three-piece suit in the corner.

Owners Kok and Han, buddies since kindergarten in their native Brooklyn, opened the café in February in hopes of starting an art scene in Keyport. So far, it seems to be working.

“Keyport has a lot of potential,” Kok said. “Our goal is to attract people from out of town into Keyport. What we really want to do is bring music and art into town, perhaps make it into a little Red Bank.”

“They pump a lot of life into town,” said Remaud, a regular. “People meet each other here. It’s a hub. Most places, Main Street is vanishing, but this place seems to be bringing it back.”

Han and Kok are proud of their little hub, from the Internet portals to the eclectic music selection. Mostly though, their proud of the coffee.

“We get our coffee beans every week,” said Han, “so it’s always fresh instead of buying it in bulk and storing it for a month or two. Ours tastes stronger because of the freshness of it.”

Musicians perform at the café every Friday and Saturday night, attracting a mixed audience that cuts through the age barrier.

“It’s good,” Remaud said. “So many places are age-segregated.”

For more information on band listings, call (732) 203-9499 or visit www.espresso-joes.com for a complete schedule of events. The café is open till midnight on the weekends and 10 p.m. during the week.

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