Co-owner of Sip This coffee shop, Stephanie Pontillo is serving sweet and savory delights and working to strengthen a sense of community for the residents of Valley Stream.
Co-owner of Sip This coffee shop
During their teenage years, Stephanie Pontillo ’08 and her group of friends were always looking for somewhere unique to hang out.
As a student at Adelphi, Ms. Pontillo and longtime friend Dave Sabatino took trips to visit friends who went away to different colleges. “We weren’t really bar people; we went out to explore the small towns and always discovered coffee shops and cute places to spend our time,” she said. “We would have loved something like these when we were younger, instead of roaming the streets and stopping in at 7-Elevens.”
She and her friends daydreamed about starting such a place together, but it wasn’t until Ms. Pontillo and Mr. Sabatino brainstormed during a long car ride upstate in January 2010 that they started to get serious. The idea for the coffee house Sip This was born.
The two knew exactly where they wanted to reside; Rockaway Avenue, the “downtown” of their hometown Valley Stream. “Rockaway Avenue is our business district, and it needed something,” said Ms. Pontillo, who felt they had the potential to bring new life to this street with their establishment. “We wanted to create a place where we would get to know customers and that the whole community could enjoy.”
Fast forward to August 20, 2011, the day Sip This opened its doors, and they were on their way to achieving that goal. Today they are serving delicious coffee drinks and desserts, with the names of their specialties referencing the town’s high school mascots (Falcon Fury or Spartans Surge) and important Valley Stream landmarks and streets (Rockaway Rocket and Fat Fletcher).
But Ms. Pontillo and Sabatino are interested in even more than just serving sweet and savory delights. Sip This is committed to “being there” for their Valley Stream community—hosting events, supporting and working with other local businesses, and creating opportunities for residents to get involved.
They have certainly created a welcoming atmosphere, with cohorts ranging from business associates to mommy groups to book clubs meeting at Sip This. “We never announced that people could meet here…people just started coming, and we thought that was great,” she said. ABC’s “What Would You Do?” and TLC’s “My Strange Addiction” have even come to the coffee house to film for their programs.
The walls of Sip This are donned with the work of local artists. “It’s hard for them to find a place on Long Island to display their work, so now we feature a different artist ever month.” They are already booked through the end of 2014. Every other week they host open mic nights. “These young kids are so talented, but nobody is listening to them anywhere else. They come here and they play and they cheer each other on,” she said. “It’s so nice.”
The space Sip This is in had been one of Long Island’s longest running record stores. “There was a cool history there,” said Ms. Pontillo, who explained that the name for their coffee shop plays off of the prior owner’s name, Slipped Disc Records.
Paying homage to the previous life of this storefront location, on the wall when you first walk into the coffee shop is framed memorabilia from the record store and T-shirts designed by Slipped Disc’s former owner. The first Friday of every month they also host a Bring Your Own Vinyl musical event in which people are invited to bring records from their personal collections to buy, sell, trade or have incorporated into the mix of music being played that evening.
While Sip This celebrated their two year anniversary on August 20, 2013, its owners feel like they are just beginning. Their short-term goals include getting an oven, so Ms. Pontillo can bake desserts in-house, and down the road they hope to expand their space, get a liquor license as well as a full kitchen. “We have schools and lots of office buildings right by us. If they don’t feel like going to the deli, we’d like to be able to serve them here.”
Ms. Pontillo says there’s never a day that her phone isn’t on her in anticipation of a call from an employee, never a day she’s not thinking about Sip This. But she loves what she does. “There are people who actually say ‘thank you for opening’ all the time. And I’m just like, ‘you’re welcome.’ Because that was the whole point of Sip This,” she said. “To provide something that wasn’t there.”
Sip This coffee house is offering Adelphi alumni 10 percent off their purchase, just mention your affiliation to Adelphi when you check out! Visit Adelphi’s full list of benefits for other discounts.
Ms. Pontillo talks about what it takes to get a business off the ground:
Words of Wisdom: Whatever you think it is going to cost and however much time you think it’s going to take, just double it right off the bat. Don’t be surprised…don’t be discouraged when it’s taking longer than expected.
On Social Media: It’s a must. It helped us get the word out about Sip This in the beginning. And now, the morning of a special or an event, we can announce it via social media and it reaches thousands instantly. Print ads are so expensive. We did them at first and didn’t know how many people we were getting from them. You can get more of a sense of how many people you’re reaching with Facebook.
It’s all about who you know: Be nice to people. Don’t burn bridges. We did a career day at a local high school and I reminded the students that you never know who you are meeting or who that person might become. Remember who you know, because you might need them someday…that’s what happened to us.
What have you been doing since you graduated from Adelphi?
If you’ve started your own organization or program or are engaged in innovative work, let Adelphi know! We want to share your business or other success with the young alumni community in the future.
For further information, please contact:
Strategic Communications Director
p – 516.237.8634
e – firstname.lastname@example.org