There’s usually a stillness in the early morning air on Nathaniel’s Drive in Rochester; recently, however, the quiet neighborhood softly awakens around 7:00 a.m., much like it did early Tuesday morning with the yawning sounds from the unhurried swishes of car tires as they pulled up slowly in front of Graham Levenson’s house.
The 4-year-old had been expecting them, the somewhat steady stream of neighbors and friendly faces who have been coming to Graham every morning now for at least a week for their morning cup of coffee before the summer day begins to swelter and coffee cravings melt into a thirst for something icier. For you see, Graham has left that old lackluster lemonade stand business to the other kids; what he’s pouring roadside has far more value to his customers at 7 in the morning.
It all began last month when Graham noticed the various farm stands around town suddenly stocked with fresh produce, and the corn stands were especially bustling. From somewhere inside his rapidly developing mind came a calling to open up his own corn stand, something he immediately told his mom he wanted to do.
“Graham wanted to sell corn and sell it at his own stand along the side of the road,” said Mom, Mary Levenson. “Everybody has stands along the side of the road and he wanted to get up early in the morning and sell corn.”
But the Levensons don’t grow their own corn, and a trip to another farm stand across town early enough to be back at Graham’s stand for 7:00 wasn’t feasible, because Mom has to get to her home office by 8:00 am where she works in sales. Lemonade didn’t seem like a great idea either, for who’s out for lemonade that early in the morning?
What ensued inside Graham’s 4-year-old mind was nothing less than genius at any age. Graham looked to his mom and got his best business idea yet.
“Well, you drink coffee,” Levenson said, quoting Graham. “So he ended up with a coffee stand.”
Graham had already had experience in the coffee business, according to Levenson.
“He’s always – since before could talk – scooped the coffee in the morning to grind, and then he grinds it and puts it into the filter and he pushes the on button.”
All that was missing was a real-life wooden stand, so he solicited the help of Levenson’s boyfriend, Reed Bacchiocchi, and Reed’s father, Bill Bacchiocchi, to build him one.
“Billy got the bottom part, and Reed did all the rest,” reported Graham.
Shortly thereafter, Levenson posted a photo of Graham at his coffee stand on social media, which spread the word about his coffee stand out past his own neighborhood swiftly into cyberspace, and subsequently into the heart of Rochester Police Officer Alyson Rego.
That morning when Officer Rego showed up for her first cup of Graham’s coffee, another neighbor spotted the caffeinated congregation across the street and posted her own pic on social media, which spread to other regions, even reaching a statewide TV station that then shared it on Facebook.
Officer Rego has been a bit more bright-eyed towards the end of her midnight to 8 am shift thanks to Graham’s coffee stand, and on Tuesday morning around 7:15 am, Officer Rego was back to plunking her 75 cents into a paper cup and having a lively chat with Graham over coffee and a homemade blueberry muffin.
“This place is a happening joint,” said Rego. “The best coffee in town.”
Rego commented on Graham’s new Patriots hat and the two were discussing the details behind its acquisition when another cruiser pulled up alongside the house and out came Officer Chris Zutaut for a cup of coffee and a muffin. Within a few minutes another familiar face arrived, and then another, until Graham’s paper cup of profits was nearly filled to the brim.
Officer Zutaut stirred in some half-and-half cream, took a sip, and complimented the barista.
“He’s very enthusiastic about it,” said Levenson. “And we’ve got some regular people now.
Just before closing up shop for the day, along came Meg Robinson from across the street for her to-go cup before leaving for work.
“If he’s out here I come,” said Robinson. “He’s quite the little businessman. I tell you, he’s going places. One day we’ll be reading about him in the Fortune500.”
On her way to her car Robinson calls out, “Thanks, Graham! I’ll probably see you tomorrow!”
The coffee supply had dwindled by that point, and as the officers returned to work, Graham began packing up shop, satisfied with another day of hard-earned coins.
Thus concluded another morning at Graham’s coffee stand where, whether his customers take their coffee black or with cream, with or without sugar, inside every cup of coffee is an extra added sweetness, served always with a smile.
By Jean Perry