On a late October afternoon the coffee line at Slave to the Grind replenished itself magically while one student did homework at a table in the back and classic rock gently filled the room. "How often do you hear the Moody Blues played?” Andy Marshall asked.
Long before its recent 18th anniversary, the popular coffeehouse opened by Marshall and his wife Carol in July 1993 became a neighborhood institution.
"Hi, Don,” Marshall waved to a man standing with a cup in his hand. “Tell her about the You Tube video,” said "Slave" regular Don Drumm, a jazz pianist and country music singer.
Mornings invite an older crowd leaving for business or the nearby train station; midday brings its own clientele, late afternoons and evenings bring the younger set.
Since January . Herein lies the secret of his success despite the nearby competition, Marshall cares about people, his customers and his community.
Quaint and homey in the space formerly occupied by Baskin-Robbins, Slave to the Grind invites customers to linger in an atmosphere refurbished by Marshall’s father-in-law and friends.
What prompted you to open a coffeehouse?
My wife and I wanted to have a coffee cart, and the Village of Bronxville said no, so we opened a coffeehouse instead. We’re the most atypical coffee house in Bronxville.
What's the biggest challenge of running a business?
Expenses are high, and although being a chef took its toll, I work at least eight hours a day, more when we first opened. It’s being consistent with the product and with the customers. I need a number of cups each day to break even however I know at least 1,500 customers by name.
Has Starbucks’ presence helped or hindered?
There’s healthy competition in Bronxville, however it's clear that Starbucks has met its match. Slave to the Grind won Best Coffee 2004 and 2005, Best Latte 2004, and Best Coffee House 2003 awards from Westchester Magazine.
What is your definition of success?
If you can make a person smile, you’ve won their heart. If someone’s having a bad day, and you can make that person smile, he or she will remember that.
I’m able to help people and that makes me happy. Customers who moved away come back to visit, and relationships are started here. I’ve seen kids in school go to college, come back, get jobs, get married, their kids come in here, and they all talk to me.
How do you balance career and personal life?
My entire family has worked here, and I put in at least eight hours a day, more when I first opened.
What would you consider important for someone who wants to go into business? Why?
It’s all about the customers and putting them first and remembering they are the bread and butter of your business. What happened one minute ago stops the minute a customer walks through the door. “Hi, how are you? What would you like?” Be a part of the community you’re in, again, because it’s about the customers.