When the doors of Peekskill Coffee House (PCH) opened in 2003, owner Sunny Cover had two objectives: to meet her neighbors and to offer them a good cup of coffee.
Coming from San Francisco, where nearly every other storefront was a coffee shop, Cover was surprised to find a lack of cafés in downtown Peekskill when she moved here in the early 2000s. “Everything was boarded up. I was looking for a place where people could come together,” said Cover.
When she couldn’t find it, she made it. Lovingly dubbed “Peekskill’s living room” by customers, PCH has become that safe and creative space Cover was looking for back then. Cover shared, “[PCH} has always been, and always will be, an offering to the community. I’m especially proud that we’ve created a place for young people who are coming into their own independence.”
A large part of PCH’s success, no doubt, is due to its prime location downtown (101 S. Division Street) in Peekskill’s Flat Iron Building — a prewar, corner-lot building erected in 1910. When choosing the location for her business, Cover sat on the corner of Brown Street and S Division to count the cars and pedestrians passing by, making sure there was enough traffic to sustain the business plan. Certainly, there have been many more customers than even that initial count could have anticipated.
As the years went on, the building suffered some wear and tear. With the support of customers and investors in 2023, PCH underwent two months of renovations to restore their portion of the building, replacing the counters and repairing the floors — which led to a serendipitous discovery. “The holes in the original hardwood were filled with coffee cans,” said Cover. “It was meant to be.”
Cover’s future goals include striving to find a better work-life balance — for both her and her staff. “The café/quick-service atmosphere is seven days a week, and it’s tough. We want to make this as healthy as we can for our staff.”
But that doesn’t mean she’s planning on slowing down just yet. Cover and PCH operations manager Jenna Reilly have jointly founded Ryze Collective, a shared coffee roasting facilitywhich opened in July 2022 in the Hat Factory. Reilly noted that, like PCH, the idea for a roasting collective came out of necessity. “We needed a roasting facility for our roasting company [Peekskill Coffee Roasting Company].”
The duo had been traveling to New York City frequently to roast out of shared spaces, but “we were spending more time driving than diversifying our profiles,” Cover recalled. They thought of what other coffee shop owners might need, and they realized their potential roaster wouldn’t be used by them 24/7, so they created a shared space — a collaborative place for other companies to explore roasting or for small, at-home businesses to grow. “We are offering to local coffee professionals what we offer to Peekskill at PCH: a community,” said Reilly.
PCH celebrated its 20th “birthday” on November 16 with food, drinks, a toast, and —appropriately— a latte art competition for a prize of $250 (won by Jake Carnabuci of Climbing Wolf Coffee & Beer in Dobbs Ferry). The party was attended by loyal customers, staff, other business owners, and local government members.
So, what’s the secret to 20 years of success in a city that’s seen quite a bit of change? According to Cover and Reilly, it’s the staff. “Our customers appreciate their relationships and interactions with our staff, who are committed to being kind and serving the community,” said Reilly. “Plus, the coffee’s really good.”
Peekskill resident Stephanie Conte is a regular contributor to River Journal North