The photos kept hitting Eric LeGrand’s phone.
Every day last spring and summer, it seemed, one of his friends — and often many more — would shoot over a picture of their morning coffee as they worked from home during the coronavirus pandemic.
That got LeGrand thinking. Six months later, those texts have turned into a business. The inspirational former Rutgers football player launched the online story for LeGrand Coffee House on Monday ahead of the physical location’s planned August grand opening — or LeGrand Opening — in Woodbridge, LeGrand’s home town.
“Eighty-five percent of the world drinks coffee. And when people drink a cup of coffee, why do they do it? They need a little pick-me-up, they’re down, they’re tired, they’re out of it,” LeGrand said. “And when they look at me, what do they think about? Inspiration, motivation, a leader. Now when you drink my coffee beans, you’re getting a double-whammy at the same time and a reminder on how you should put things in perspective for yourself about how you go about attacking your day, or that little afternoon or evening pick-me-up that you need.”
LeGrand said he decided to start his business on July 11. He drank coffee for the first time in his life sometime in August — “I said, ‘Holy sh—. What have I been missing out on?’” — and away he went. He has partnered with a roaster and has been taking online training courses with Belissimo Coffee Advisors and reading as much as he can to learn about coffee and the cafe business.
LeGrand Coffee House has three coffee options now available for sale in its online shop — single-origin beans from Costa Rica, Guatemala and Sumatra. The offerings should grow once the physical store opens, and LeGrand plans to only offer single-origin beans as the taste is higher quality compared to blended mixes.
“I want to learn what [people] taste and what they’re looking for every time they drink coffee,” he said. “We believe we have the best out there, but I want to know how we can improve and what type of beans they want.”
LeGrand said he is a few weeks away from finalizing a contract and announcing the location. He is excited about creating jobs in his hometown and he is already planning out community partnerships and fundraisers.
The change of pace in life brought on by the pandemic allowed LeGrand to take time to listen to many audio books and become inspired to take the leap of faith with his own business. He believes Woodbridge is the perfect location for an independent coffee shop, but he is hopeful his celebrity and the online shop will help build a national brand as well and make the storefront a destination for visitors as well as neighbors.
“People have their home and their workplace, and I want to make LeGrand Coffee House their third place,” he said. “There are just so many things that come over a cup of coffee. “It’s going to be crazy. I already know it.”
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James Kratch may be reached at email@example.com.