Aldo’s Coffee Company with its old-world style, signature coffee, and famous biscotti that ships to customers worldwide, has been a mainstay in the Village of Greenport since 1987. But, like a satisfying cup of coffee, all good things must come to an end.
The iconic North Fork business and its building at 103 Front Street, on a 0.9-acre property at the edge of Mitchell Park and Marina, are now on the market, listed last month for $4.5 million.
As news spread that Aldo’s is for sale, customers have been asking questions. “Nobody believed I could do that,” says Aldo Maiorana, whose first name is well known among discerning coffee connoisseurs. “People are starting to hear what’s going on, asking, ‘Where are we going to get our coffee?’” he says.
“I’ve had some customers 40 years.” With a loyal following and an e-commerce business that has recently expanded, why has he decided the time is right to sell? “It’s not a matter of time or timing, it’s a matter that sometimes you have to make a decision that may be hard to take.”
He admits when the building and business are sold, it’s going to be a big adjustment. “I’m not somebody who plays golf. I’m not somebody who watches TV or reads books. It’s going to be a big separation for me,” he says. “But, the body gets tired at times — I’m 73. I’ve been working 64 years.”
Maiorana has been roasting coffee for 37 years, but he’s lived in Greenport 44 years. He came directly from France to the fishing village in 1978. “Greenport was not what you see today,” he says. “I’ve been here for 30-plus years. He was one of the first to bring that artisan feeling” to Greenport, which has become “an incredible foodie little town,” says Jill Dunbar of Douglas Elliman, who represents the listing. “He was one of the first, if not the first, to commit to that, to the village itself.”
Maiorana has always been in the hospitality industry, trained as a high-end maître d’hôtel. “When I came to America, there were two things missing in my life. One was bread. When I landed in Greenport, there were no specialty bakeries, no French bread, it was all in a plastic bag.”
He craved bread that had a strong crust and was hearty, a sliced baguette that goes well with boeuf bourguignon.
“I’m not a baker, but I started making bread. That led to catering and making cakes — I had no idea what I was doing when I started.”
The other item he missed from France was coffee. “Same as the bread coming in the plastic bag, the coffee was coming in a one-pound can,” he says. “I could not get any pleasure, any satisfaction. Not that I was an expert — I was not.”
While Maiorana couldn’t describe what he was longing for in coffee, he just knew it was missing something. “You either like something or you don’t. I was not searching for something in particular. The same as when you are having a good glass of wine, you don’t need to be a specialist to know you like the wine.”
He says he was happy to try his hand at roasting coffee.
His interest in finding a good tasse de café, if you will, led him to the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center, where he met someone who had started manufacturing coffee roasters. “Right away, I wanted one. It was small — 7 kilos, 12 pounds. That was the first thing that I bought.”
In July of 1987, Maiorana opened his doors at 103 Front Street. He was baking bread, catering and even selling meats. Aldo’s has had several iterations over the years, including a specialty food store and a restaurant in the ’90s.
Maiorana says it’s important “to reinvent yourself every couple of years.”
Selling biscotti and then shipping it out became his claim to fame. His first wholesale customer was Dean & DeLuca, an upscale grocery store that started in SoHo in Manhattan, then Grace’s Marketplace, an Upper East Side landmark.
“Then, pretty soon, we’re shipping all over America,” Maiorana recalls. “When Dean & DeLuca was acquired, pretty soon I was shipping to California, Kansas, North Carolina, Ireland, up to Japan.”
In the early 2000s, he explains, a Dean & DeLuca opened in Tokyo. “In the Hamptons, I was selling to everybody also,” he says, rattling off names, such as The Golden Pear, Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton, the Red Horse Market when it was owned by advertising executive and restaurateur Jerry Della Femina. He believes he was one of, and perhaps the first, on Long Island to roast coffee.
Aldo’s Coffee Company now offers in-house roasting, a European-style cafe and a recently fabricated coffee bar with state-of-the-art equipment, including a 25-pound roaster.
The 1,700-square-foot, two-story structure is zoned as a mixed-use commercial building. Aldo’s roasters, cafe and kitchen can be found on the ground floor, while the second floor houses offices and storage space.
There is always interest in Greenport commercial real estate, says Dunbar, who is representing another commercial space in the village as well.
“It’s a good piece of real estate — a two-story building with views,” Dunbar says, adding that the outdoor seating area “catches the harbor breeze” as the patio is on the harbor side of the building. It also allows customers sitting outside to be “in the midst of the marine experience.”
The commercial certificate of occupancy currently allows 39 seats, according to Dunbar. There are now 25 inside, and the outdoor patio can seat 14 to 20 outside.
Also, the premises has been approved for a liquor license.
“I will speak for all the North Fork, we would love for his legacy to continue,” Dunbar says. She points out that Maiorana is open to the possibility of participating in the business post-sale to expand the brand and its products.
The book of business includes Aldo’s brand, a fast-growing e-commerce site, as well as all of the equipment, furnishings and recipes. A full list of items included in the sale is available for review.
“Hopefully, if somebody acquires it,” Maiorana says, “it’s going to be somebody who can continue and make what I started bigger, better.”