Coby’s a hit on Main Street

“It’s still a work in progress,” noted manager Connie Zwick, but customers having coffee or lunch at
SUNY Cobleskill student Saasha Caldera and John Bissember of Richmondville talk over coffee Tuesday at Coby’s on East Main Street in Cobleskill.
SUNY Cobleskill student Saasha Caldera and John Bissember of Richmondville talk over coffee Tuesday at Coby’s on East Main Street in Cobleskill.

“It’s still a work in progress,” noted manager Connie Zwick, but customers having coffee or lunch at Coby’s on Tuesday afternoon seemed happy with SUNY Cobleskill’s newly opened shop on central Main Street.

After years of discussion, the coffee house-style shop opened for business with little fanfare last week.

“I don’t think we even put a sign in the window,” said Zwick, but people just started walking in.”

Customers during last Saturday’s village ArtWalk nearly overwhelmed the small shop, she said.

“We’ve been waiting a long time for this to open,” said Doug VanDeusen, as he and fellow Lamont Engineers staff member Erin France ate sandwiches Tuesday at a window table with a view of their office across Main street.

“They did a nice job, it’s very inviting,” VanDeusen added.

College sophomore Sasha Caldera and friend John Bissember shared the other window table.

“It’s really cute,” Caldera said about the casual mix of a half-dozen or so tables, a lounge area, food bar and coffee and cappuccino machines.

Free wireless computer access is also available, making Coby’s a place for students, local business people and visitors to meet and keep linked to e-mails or the Internet if they bring their own Wi-Fi-capable laptops.

Two 46-inch plasma TV screens hanging on the walls had CNN tuned in to political news on Tuesday.

A small stage area in one corner may soon offer occasional poetry readings, open-mic shows or musical performances, Zwick said.

A grand opening is being planned, said Jason Stratton, marketing director for Cobleskill Auxiliary Services Inc., the nonprofit agency which operates the shop, as well as campus dining halls, book store and related facilities.

Coby’s also sells SUNY Cobleskill hats, shirts and other items. Several Schoharie County “Pride of New York” items, including McGillycuddy’s Natural soaps and Maple Hill Farms syrup products are for sale.

Decor and services will adapt to customer preferences, according to Stratton.

The plan is to attract more students and villagers downtown, without competing with existing businesses.

“I can’t stress enough that we want to create an evolving atmosphere,” he said.

Because of differing meanings to different age groups, Stratton steers away from calling Coby’s a cafe. “I’d just call it Coby’s,” he said.

The shop occupies leased space a few doors east of the corner of Grand and Main streets.

With a seven-year lease in place, Auxiliary Services allocated a startup budget of about $150,000 to get the business running, according to Stratton.

Funds come from services operations, not state taxpayers, he said.

“One of my high priorities was to fast-track our presence in the village,” said Donald Zingale, president of the State University of New York at Cobleskill.

Zingale, took the reins at the 2,500-student campus last May, but the plan for a college-run, coffee house-style shop downtown was already in the works from college Provost Anne Myers, who was interim head for the previous 20 months.

Making the village more of a college town atmosphere was a goal Zingale outlined a few weeks ago, as classes got under way.

Zingale said he hopes a successful business might be sold off to a private entrepreneur in a few years. The college might then consider other types of shops, such as games or bicycles, he said.

“If we can demonstrate there is a do-able business there, we won’t stay in that forever,” Zingale said.

“We’re trying to dispel the myth that the village can’t support businesses because of the lack of parking. That’s an excuse,” Zingale said. “There is parking. You may just have to walk a block.”

Deputy Mayor Sandy MacKay, a member of the business/community Cobleskill Partnership and long-time advocate of closer college-village ties, sees Coby’s as a positive development.

“I was very impressed,” MacKay said. “I hope that it will draw students downtown … and I hope it will be a mix of people,” he said. More ground-floor shops should lead to more upper floor apartments, MacKay says. “People are attracted by other people.”

Seven employees clad in SUNY Cobleskill’s orange and black colors work at Coby’s, including four students, according to Zwick.

Coby’s menu is in flux, but already deli sandwiches, muffins and light breakfast fare are available from about $1.19 to $4.99.

There’s also various drip coffees and espressos from about 79 cents to $3.49.

Perhaps by next semester, bakery classes in the college’s culinary arts department will be making pastries and dessert items for Coby’s, Zingale said.

Numerous retail and food service businesses have been located over the in the building owned by Stanion and Sabine Investment Group LLC.

Most recently, it was the Coffee Cabin, which closed about a year ago.

Categories: Schenectady County

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