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EX-BUILDER WARMS TO BEAN ROASTING

russ-crosson-091311Russ Crosson plans to remake his one-room office space on Drs. Parker Boulevard into a take-out specialty coffee shop. (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

retail churn small

At a recent Red Bank zoning board meeting, redbankgreen was surprised to learn that builder Russ Crosson had closed his 20-year-old construction business.

Crosson was seeking board permission to convert his company’s headquarters, on Wallace Street, back to a two-family home, which it had been before he turned it into something of a restoration showcase a block from Broad Street just three years ago.

His company, Crosson told the board, had gone under, a victim of a near-stoppage of work in public works, and he no longer needed the space. The hearing on the request, which faces opposition from neighbors, is scheduled to continue Thursday night.

But what, we wondered, did the failure of Crosson Construction mean to its plan for a strip mall on the borough’s West Side?

It turns out that dream, which gained informal approval just 17 months ago, is also dead. But another, more modest one has taken its place, and for coffee lovers, it’s one that’s sure to smell heavenly.

coffee-coralThe Coffee Corral will be for take-out only for now, Crosson says. (Click to enlarge)

Crosson, of Rumson, is transforming the 600-square-foot building on the site, at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard, into the Coffee Corral, a hot java shop anchored by a $50,000 bean roaster.

“At the age of 54, I’m renovating myself,” the Red Bank native said in an interview at the site Tuesday. “I’m starting a new life in a new industry.”

His roaster, capable of turning out 350,000 pounds of beans a year in small lots, comes from Diedrich Manufacturing in Idaho, where Crosson has gone not only to learn how to operate it, but to supplement his study of the black art of brewing the perfect cuppa joe.

But why coffee? Isn’t that market awash in grinders and brewers, not to mention an urn in every doughnut shop, restaurant and quilted-chrome food truck? Risking the ire of all, Crosson says a good cup of coffee – he takes his black – is “rare, in fact, non-existent” in the Red Bank area.

His shop, he says, will feature “single-origin” beans from Kenya, Guatamala, Costa Rica and elsewhere, as well as blends of high-end Arabica beans, roasted on-site and sold neither before nor after their moment of perfection.

Because it has no dedicated parking, the shop will be for grab-an-go only. Crosson also plans to sell roasted beans into the local restaurant market and make them available for sale through charities.

The shopping center he had planned for the large, vacant lot won conceptual approval from the planning board in April, 2010. Among the tenants Crosson told the board he hoped to land was Starbucks.

Crosson has owned the one-room brick building for 20 years, and once based his construction business there. Prior to that, it was home, in no particular order, to a barber shop, an attorney, a realty office, a bail-bonds operation and a candy store, among others, he said.

And while he still has hurdles to clear regarding his Wallace Street property, this one has all necessary permits, Crosson said. He hopes to open the Coffee Corral within two months.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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