Things are happening at the Black Cow Coffee Co., which bills itself as the “heart of the community” in Croton-on-Hudson. There are new muffins, expanded hours and now, coconut milk instead of almond milk for the latte art.
There’s also a new sheriff in town. Faith and Cole Rivers, who met at the shop’s original location twelve years ago, got married last year and officially took over on Nov. 19, 2023.
Practicing Buddhists who live in town, they call their jazz romance a Love Supreme after the vaunted John Coltrane album. Several blends are named after jazz artists, including Mingus Java Blend and Spherical Variations for Thelonious Monk.
Black Cow also crafted a blend for WBGO, the 24-hour jazz station in Newark (88.3 FM). The Black Cow provides beans for other local businesses, including Baked By Susan and Dam Good Muffins. They also sell beans to Black Cow satellite outlets in Pleasantville and at Phelps Hospital in Sleepy Hollow.
Faith brings a retail leadership background, so she oversees the business end, shapes things behind the scenes, and tries to spot significant trends. She also tends the counter, serving customers.
“I would like to see more Black Cows,” she said, hinting at possible expansion plans.
Cole, the coffee expert and chief roaster, has worked at the Black Cow for almost 17 years. He is serious as a scientist when he roasts the beans, often consulting his computer to check on the vital signs. He got into the coffee business through his first love, poetry.
“My dream was to publish a book and I wrote in coffee shops, but I worked at a bookstore,” he said. “A colleague told me I should work in a coffee shop and I did, but I got tired of the commercialized experience and sought out an independent shop.”
He and former owner Michal Grant hit it off. “He is really organic and down to earth and he wanted to create this gathering space that’s bigger than a coffee shop,” he said. “That’s a legacy we’re going to continue.”
At the time, the store occupied a funky, rustic space that is now home to Matters Coffee next to the Wells Fargo. According to the website, Michael and his wife, Peggy, “retired to Vermont to live out their other dream of doing absolutely nothing in a bucolic setting.”
The shop’s name is meaningless, it just had a nice ring to it, said Cole. “People would always come in and say, ‘well, milk comes from a cow’ and ‘coffee is black,’ but he just pulled it out of the air.”
The couple is big on creating a welcoming space for mingling and hosting post-covid events. In August, they revived open mic night, held on the last Wednesday of every month.
In November, they invited musicians from The Loft, an LBGTQ community service center in White Plains. Cole served as a patient host and allowed one performer to go on a tangent. The laid-back vibe let the musicians relax and a bunch of folks came just to listen and enjoy the variety show.
“We’re going to be doing more in-person activities and see how it works out,” said Faith. “Post-covid, many people are hurting psychologically, so the Black Cow will always be there to create community, stimulate friendships and expand our capacity to have dialogue.”
Marc Ferris is a regular contributor to River Journal North.