The community of Central New York is responsible for Cafe Kubal’s existence. It’s the loyal customers who make room in their day for a cup of coffee. They stop by for a 10-minute detour from deadlines at work or challenges at home for a moment away from life’s craziness.
Owner Matt Godard says customers remember a positive experience and they come back. Now, the hospital clientele is showing their support. Since last week, Cafe Kubal has been supplying coffee for Gifts on the Hill at Upstate University at Community General.
Godard is happy about pursuing customers in hospital settings. Cafe Kubal is highly sympathetic towards people who need help with their health, he says.
“We try to go where we’re wanted,” according to Godard. “Based on the requests that have flooded my email, I feel that we can have impact on the day to day life for people at the hospital whether it be patients, staff, or visitors. Hospitals can be very stressful. We can focus on the human interaction at the counter.”
“When people come into our café,” Godard said, “It might be the best part of their entire day. Some people’s lives are hanging on by a thread while others are trying to keep going. ”
It’s not just about coffee. Godard has a unique hospitality manual for his staff. Even if a barista knows the steps and procedures of making good coffee, that is only 49 percent of job. The other 51 percent is empathy for the customer, respect towards others, passion and willingness to go the extra mile.
Godard’s diverse customers range from public officials, entrepreneurs, social workers to retirees, students or mechanics. He says some customers are working on important missions in the community while others might just be getting by.
Godard also wants to eliminate the stereotype of the hip-indie coffee house that only caters to certain individuals. He wants everyone to feel welcome at the café. His classic example: “Napa Pete”, a customer who works for an auto retailer.
Napa Pete first came to Café Kubal because the line was too long at his usual coffee place. He asked a lot of questions and the staff patiently explained to him.
“He had no idea what our coffee was about and he appreciated how we answered,” said Godard. “People appreciate us for not being pretentious. Since then, Napa Pete is a repeat customer who visits five or six days a week for the past five years.”
It all started in 2004 with a trip to Guatemala where Godard’s wife, Rachel, grew up. Godard saw the effect that coffee can have on an entire culture. Inspired to bring some of that home to Syracuse, he first started roasting coffee beans in his parents’ basement. He sold them online and to anyone willing to buy from the trunk of his car. In 2007, the property owner in the Sacred Melody Plaza in Eastwood heard about Godard and offered him a 300-square-foot space.
Among Godard’s early challenges - to convince the public why micro roasting was better.
“There was not a lot of public understanding of roasting,” he said. “I had to work extra hard to convince people that we were worth trying. You have to have a great deal of customer empathy and humility when you’re presenting a new concept to people.”
Godard’s business has grown to three other locations and two more on the way this spring. The cafes are located near Syracuse University at 720 University Ave.; downtown at 401 S. Salina St. (in the Dey's building); and in the Creekwalk Commons at the corner of Water and Franklin streets. Two upcoming locations include shops in the historic Hotel Syracuse and in a new residential/retail development at 712-714 E. Fayette St., near the Syracuse Center of Excellence.
When you drink a cup of coffee at Cafe Kubal, you contribute to help and sustain farmers and villages throughout the coffee growing world. Godard buys some of his beans for roasting directly from farmers through the Rainforest Alliance Certified program and others through various sustainable programs that ensure the growers to get a fair price while the farming and forestry methods are good for the people and planet.
Giving back to the community is also important to Godard. Part of Kubal’s profit from the SU Cafe location is donated to the Rescue Mission. Customers there also receive a free cup of coffee if they bring in a bag of clothes for donation. A few other causes which Kubal has supported include the Water Ball which raises awareness and money for clean water in developing nations where Kubal sources its coffee; Spring Clean Up for Earth Day; and donations for Breast Cancer Awareness.
“I’m thankful and humbled for the community’s support,” Godard says. “We wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”