From The Kitchen

Recess Coffee has been bringing coffee lovers and the Syracuse community together for 10 years

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

Recess Coffee's 10-year-old Westcott Street location will close temporarily for renovations.

Clusters of customers gathered into the vibrant Westcott neighborhood cafe as the cold wind shepherded them into the warmth. Inside, surrounded by various works of art hung on the wall, customers sat, intently talking to each other or typing away on their laptops. What brought them all together was the Recess Coffee paper cup on their tables.

These cups have been bringing people looking for a place to work and coffee-lovers together for 10 years.


“We’ve been coming here for almost two years now, almost every single day,” said Kat Abrams, a Syracuse local. “We’re regulars.” Abrams was enjoying a latte with Hannah Tetu, a Baldwinsville resident.

As returning customers, Abrams and Tetu were not ready for Recess’s original Westcott location’s impending renovations. From March 3 to March 10, seating will be limited and customers are encouraged to go to the downtown location as it gets spruced up.

The Westcott location will be closed temporarily after the renovations are finished.

The renovations focus on providing extra seating and a remodeling of the floors and paint, said Jay Furgal, manager and head barista at the Westcott location.

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

“We’re looking for a lot more of a crisp, clean aesthetic,” Furgal said, “We want it to still be cozy and welcoming and unique in the neighborhood, but we also want to touch up the edges.”

Business gets so hectic that sometimes customers ask if they can go upstairs, even though the upstairs isn’t owned by Recess.

“We are lucky that we live in such a friendly neighborhood where people kind of have to scooch over a little bit on the couch so somebody else can sit,” Furgal said.

Recess Coffee remains a favorite among people who are looking for places outside the college campus libraries and study rooms to spend their time. The Westcott location is close to Syracuse University’s campus, but just recently in 2015, Recess Coffee expanded from its birthplace in Westcott to the historic Courier Building in downtown Syracuse.

“I like this one better,” Abrams said. “It means a lot to me. It’s become one of my prime homework spots and it’s definitely my favorite place to get coffee around here.”

Tetu and Abrams looked back on some of the signature habits of the café, and remembered a sketchbook that used to make its rounds around the café. Inside, which was filled with doodle and writing prompts, customers could sketch to their hearts’ desire when it passed their table. Abrams said the book was full of so much artwork that “the pages were literally falling out.”

“I really appreciate that they have art displayed here all the time,” Tetu said. “It’s a really cool way to for artists to get their stuff shown.”  She mentioned that she would love to have her own art displayed once on the wall too — just to mark her time as a regular.

Andy Waggoner and Lydia Parkington had settled into a deep conversation with a tea and coffee respectively at the Westcott location after a long time away.

Parkington, a Syracuse University graduate, hadn’t been back in two years, and Waggoner, a music professor at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, had returned after five or six years.

“I have very long-standing PTSD memories of this place that have nothing to do with this place,” Waggoner said, chuckling. “Whenever I come here, though, I am reminded that the coffee is really good and that I like it.”

Parkington visits the downtown location on Montgomery Street far more often.

“It’s similar in size but different in feel. It’s a little more modernist,” Parkington said. “Their pretzel bagels are to die for.”

Ally Moreo | Photo Editor

The walls of the Recess Coffee in the downtown location are a little more subdued in terms of artwork, but the merchandise remained prominent. Shirts and napkins emblazoned with the logo hung down from the walls and the music tinkled through the hall, which held four or five yellow tables. The familiar sight of laptops and conversations harked back to the vision the Westcott location cultivated.

Recess Coffee has been open for business since 2007, and the customers flocking to its doors have not diminished. Jamelda McDonald, a Recess Coffee staff member, said that in an eight-hour shift, she loses track of all the customers coming through, but estimated she serves hundreds daily.

McDonald has been working at the downtown location for a little under a year now, and when she’s not covering her shifts, she is finishing up her last semester at Syracuse University as an art video major. McDonald favors Recess Coffee because of the laidback atmosphere it exudes.

“It’s nice working for a local business,” she said. “You’re not dealing with a huge capitalist system. It’s more enjoyable and there’s a lot more freedom. I can wear whatever I want — we just have to look presentable.

“The Westcott location is a baby, because they’ve had it for so long,” McDonald also said of the Westcott location.

Furgal elaborated on the moving clientele downtown as well, referencing the families, college students and businesses that patronize the café downtown.

“It’s really nice in the spring and summertime,” Furgal said. “You can just grab a cup of joe and take a stroll around downtown — I think people really seized upon that.”

Putting aside differences between the two locations, Furgal said the craft and the coffee comes first and making sure the roast profiles at Recess Coffee stay true to its vision and customers. It’s what makes Furgal appreciate the cafe even more.

“I love this company, I love coffee and I love what I do for the community,” she said.


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