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Ex-employee opens Happy Cappuccino in Schenectady under new name after quick makeover

Ex-employee opens Happy Cappuccino in Schenectady under new name after quick makeover

New owners of downtown coffee shop plan to add kitchen, vegan menu
Ex-employee opens Happy Cappuccino in Schenectady under new name after quick makeover
Owner Chelsea Heilmann delivers coffee at Square One Cafe (formerly known as Happy Cappuccino), located at 185 Jay St.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

SCHENECTADY — The former Happy Cappuccino reopened Tuesday after a six-day shutdown during which the new owners rebranded the downtown coffee shop as the Square One Cafe.

Chelsea Heilmann and partner Jack Kowalski did only minor work such as painting from Jan. 1 through 6, but their space on the Jay Street pedestrian mall spans three storefronts, and their next project is to add a full kitchen and offer a full vegan menu for breakfast and lunch.

“I’m hoping end of February,” Heilmann said of the timetable for completion of the next phase.

For now, Square One is continuing to offer the coffee, tea, baked snacks and other beverages for which Happy Cappuccino was known.

The first day open under the new name was gratifying, said Heilmann, who worked for previous owners Matt and Vicki Robbins for three years through mid-2019.

“It was amazing, lots of regulars coming back,” she said. The very first customer Tuesday was none other than Matt Robbins.

Heilmann, a Rotterdam native, lives right downtown, a short distance from her new business, and follows a vegan diet herself. The lack of local dining options helped shape her business plan.

“We don’t want to go somewhere to have a hummus sandwich,” she said. The goals are 1) to serve creative vegan takes on comfort food that 2) taste good and 3) are affordable.

“Why do we have to be punished [by high prices] for making it healthy and cruelty-free?” she said.

Building the kitchen will take a while but Square One can stay open as construction progresses due to the nature of the space, which is oddly configured but large, with three bathrooms.

“That’s why I love Jay Street, it’s quirky, every store has it,” Heilmann added.

She said she and Kowalski bring complementary qualities to their new venture — she creativity, he business.

“I’m the creative, wild dreamer, he’s the numbers, financial guy,” she said. “So it’s like a yin and yang.”

Beyond her personal touches, Heilmann plans to keep alive the atmosphere of the coffee shop Matt Robbins opened in 2011.

“He created such a welcoming spot for everybody,” she said.

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