About three years ago, John Ferrara woke up one morning with an idea. “I don’t know where it came from,” says the 40-year-old java junkie from Cornwall who owns a mortgage company, “but I wanted to open a coffee house.”
This past June, he did. He bought a franchise of Hawaii-based Bad Ass Coffee — the first in the Northeast — and started brewing in Wappingers Falls. His store is in a former Starbucks, a good place to ask, “why be a Bad Ass?”
“I did a lot of research, and I kept coming back to this company,” says Ferrara. “I wanted to bring something different to the area, and this was it.”
The difference starts with the coffee, of course. He sells Hawaiian-grown Kona, considered one of the best coffees in the world. “It’s grown in volcanic soil, which produces lower acidity,” he says. “It’s produced by American farmers, which I like.” Kona, however, is not as abundant as other coffees, so he sells mostly blends that include coffees from Mexico and South America.
Ferrara also liked the vibe of the stores he visited in Florida. As you’d expect, the Hawaiian atmosphere predominates: from the bright colors to the staff’s “aloha” greetings, to the palm trees and the donkey. Yes, the donkey. The natives of Kona named the hard-working and hardheaded donkeys that carried the coffee down the mountainsides “the Bad Ass Ones.”
“It’s a fun, vibrant atmosphere,” says Ferrara, who is a hands-on owner with his partner, Jill Johnston. So far, it’s also been successful, with sales about 20 percent higher than he projected, he says. If that continues, he plans to open a second store, perhaps in the Newburgh area.
Although he did have people wondering about the wisdom of opening a new business during a recession, Ferrara followed his dream. “I knew we had to be different, though,” he says, “and you can’t get more different than Bad Ass coffee from Hawaii in Wappingers Falls, New York.”