Carthaigh Coffee, the newest-kid-on-the-block café offering an excellent cup, is owned and operated by an idealistic young man who ultimately wants to contribute his energy to creating a tighter community in Marbletown. This distinction comes to light when we sit down to talk in his smallish lounge on Main Street, a place he envisions as a salon for robust, caffeine-fueled discussion amongst the town folk. Indeed, his instant response when I first asked him just what he was up to, opening shop in quasi-sleepy Stone Ridge, was: “Revolution.”
Andrew McCarthy had a longtime dream to own a cafe, and his previous work in coffee bars in Brooklyn and as manager of the Student Co-op at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, honed his skills as a barista, educator, manager, and technician. Having to get through the various requirements and permits and building renovations was, however, new ground for him. His soft opening last spring was stalled for awhile, but that simply presented the opportunity to take his mobile espresso and brew bar out to events and pop-up locations.
McCarthy now brings his experience in catering, consulting, and barista training to Carthaigh Coffee where customers can expect perfect espresso drinks, pour-over and French press coffees, other made-to-order beverages, and tasty treats. With indoor and outdoor seating and a comfy couch to occupy while imbibing, he has set the stage for communal enjoyment. He writes, “Sharing the nuance of my craft is always the most rewarding aspect of my work. Having been behind the bar of hundreds of coffee shops, I know all too well that no two are the same, and each requires its own focused care and preparation to really bring the coffee (and entire experience) to life.”
So, what was that about revolution again? “There is sort of a hypocrisy in what I’m doing,” says McCarthy, “because I consider myself an anti-capitalist. I want us as a group, as a community, as a society to embrace a more revolutionary vision of how we want to take care of each other. So operating a traditional business in a for-profit legal structure is complicated. I’m not advocating growth for the sake of growth. I opened this shop at the request of a number of people. I was a coffee nerd in Brooklyn and people said, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta open up your own place.’ I didn’t do it [to] start my own little coffee empire.
“All of the issues I had in my previous workplaces were from an imbalance of power in the hierarchy of capitalist/laborer, owner/worker class. As of right now, this is a one-man operation. My projection for growth is going to be a collective model. I envision someone who sympathizes with my vision coming in and joining forces with me as a co-owner, co-collaborator.” He admits that he doesn’t know exactly what that might look like — a café/zine library, opening the doors for group meetings, performances, and book clubs — whatever is needed and wanted. He reads and researches and looks at other cooperative projects in the region for inspiration.
And his life — admittedly one of privilege, ability, and opportunity — is also tied to a local farm that belongs to his parents, a project he intends to develop with permaculture methods, again co-cooperating with whoever chooses to join forces with him.
Between college in Oregon and cappuccinos in New York City, McCarthy completed a Permaculture Design Certification under David Holmgren in Victoria, Australia, where he realized his true calling — to live a sustainable life and establish a family homestead with his parents at their home in the hills above Marbletown.
“Permaculture is about sustainability, resilience, regenerative agriculture, and independence. The model engenders anarchy because it reduces the need for people to rely on systems of power and hierarchies and capitalists. A lot of permaculturists are not overtly political, but they are in their actions. Changing the way we get our food is one of the most subversive things you can do. I want to make sure we’re connected in doing that. Too many people start their permaculture community and disengage from the world.
“What I want is to do that and empower each other. As much as the café is about coffee, from a transactional perspective I’m hoping to engender a meeting space for people to renegotiate our social contracts, figure out what it is — like Rousseau and the people who wrote fundamental philosophy, they did it in public spaces, they did it in discourse. And they did it with the help of caffeine.”
We laugh at him having made that connection, but then he goes on to acknowledge that the coffee industry is based in colonialism and imperialism, which is a conversation he wants to bring to the forefront. “Focusing on higher quality and understanding why [product] origin is important is interrelated with that mindset about community. How do we, as relatively insulated and privileged people, dismantle that for ourselves and empower others to dismantle it for themselves?”
In Gaelic, carthaigh indicates “the loving one.” “The name embraces my heritage and establishes my legacy,” he explains, noting that the surname McCarthy means “son of Cárthach.” “The stag profile logo is an adaptation of my family’s coat of arms, incorporating the meaning of the name, as well as honoring its symbolism of peace, harmony, strength, and fortitude.” All appropriately idealistic attributes to cultivate in business and in life.
Carthaigh Coffee’s winter hours are Sunday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Wednesday closed; Thursday, Friday, Saturday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 3669 Main Street, Stone Ridge; 201 621 3813, firstname.lastname@example.org, https://www.facebook.com/carthaighcoffee