By Phoebe Kamber
Photography by Boo Elliott
Amongst the many Beacon students clutching coffee cups, usually from Starbucks or Lenwich, as they struggle to stay awake in the morning, there are few holding a cup from St Kilda’s. These few students have taken the initiative to try the small hipster coffee shop hiding below a set of stairs on their route to school. They are supporting a small local business instead of a chain like Starbucks, Lenny’s, or Gregory’s, which can afford to be less concerned about survival in the competitive New York City marketplace. The owner of St Kilda Coffee, Arthur Rangini, is a laid-back New Yorker who dons the classic “skater boy” outfit of loose jeans, a beanie, and a zip-up hoodie. Despite having to reschedule the interview a few times because of an overflow of customers, Rangini gave me his full attention when we finally sat down, kindly tuning out the fairly crowded shop.
On his three-year-long backpacking trip through Australia, Rangini was surrounded by coffee enthusiasts. He attributes his coffee-crafting skill set to his work as a barista in several different coffee shops during these years. “Coffee is like a religion there,” he laughed. However, after attending college and receiving a degree in economics, he did not know he wanted to go into the coffee business. It was not until Rangini was working in a desk job for Yahoo that he decided to return to his coffee-making roots. His reason for the return was simple—he did not feel fulfilled sitting at a desk all day and working on a computer: “I was bored. It wasn’t fun sitting at a computer; you feel… disconnected.” He wanted to meet new people and be excited about going to work in the morning.
It seems that Rangini’s dreams are coming true. He has been able to use his knowledge of economics to start and maintain a business right outside of Times Square. St Kilda’s success became clear in November when the shop celebrated its first anniversary. It offers a simple menu of espresso drinks, chai lattes, hot chocolate, and iced tea, along with a variety of baked goods including croissants, muffins, and donuts. Speaking to Rangini, it became clear that the shop’s main goal is to provide basic, well-made drinks. This, he feels, should be the most important aspect of any coffee shop, yet is often overlooked in places trying to create “hip” new drinks without perfecting the basics.
Conveniently located for Beacon students, Rangini chose the shop’s current site right off 8th Avenue and 44th Street based on his feeling that the area was over-saturated with chains. He wanted to add a unique spot for coffee where each barista is able to contribute to the style of the shop, leaving each customer with a personal, authentic experience—something lacking in many chain stores. This location was also picked because of the opportunity it gives Rangini to meet many artists and performers coming from the Broadway theater district, which he says has easily become one of his favorite perks of the job.
When asked if there was a method to making the perfect cup of coffee, Rangini gave a lengthy and excited reply, reciting the ratio of grams of coffee to water and the exact number of seconds each step of coffee-making must take in order to have the perfect balance of tastes. He clearly takes pride in a job well-done, and seemed both at ease and pleased to be able to share his expertise. His excitement grew when I switched the conversation to Beacon students (really, in an attempt to hide how little I understood about coffee-making). Rangini likes getting to meet the students, and tries to encourage their business by giving all Beacon students 10% off every purchase and making their tenth drink free: “My goal, I guess, would be for them to learn to appreciate the pure, simple coffee instead of the sugary drinks that everyone seems to be drinking.”
St Kilda wants to support us tired Beacon students by providing that perfect cup of coffee in the morning, one that seems to brighten the rest of the day. To explore our school’s area, meet new and interesting people, and help out a local business, I encourage students to give St Kilda Coffee a try.
Readers can find St Kilda Coffee at 328 West 44th Street, New York, NY 10036.