On an ordinary day at Starbucks in Union, aside from a quiet exchange of coffee orders and cash between the customers and the baristas, there's little conversation going on. Over the 10 days, life in New Jersey has been been anything but ordinary.
Despite spotty cell service, and practically non-existent Internet access, word spread quickly that the Starbucks in Union was open for business after Sandy hit. Remarkably, the center island coffee spot never lost power.
Last Thursday, the normally uber-quiet atmosphere of the upscale coffee shop was charged with caffeine and conversation.
James Petrucelli of the Route 22 establishment told Patch, "I think everyone is here because they want to feel that everything's okay, everyone's fine. There's power here and WiFi. I'm here because I want to be able to be part of making people feel better."
Outside the windowed storefront, what seemed like miles of cars streamed by all day long waiting in line for gas. Inside, cell phones, iPads and laptops lined up for available power strips and outlets, as folks scouted around for the next available seat. Tucked in a corner, and sunk into an oversuffed leather armchair; his laptop on a table; cell phone in one hand, coffee mug in the other, Boris Mirvis of Mountainside remarked how grateful he was for the courteous staff at Starbucks for providing a warm comfortable place to bring his two daughters to escape the cold, and juice up the family devices.
The self employed investment advisor told Patch, "I'm proclaiming it Energy and Internet Appreciation Week!" Mr. Mirvis was on the Internet when the power went out sometime between 7 and 8 p.m. on Oct. 29. He said, "It felt like I lost my window to the world." Youngest daughter Jane said, "I was a little scared during the storm, especially when the tree in our yard looked like it was going to tip over. Thankfully it didn't, and there are just the usual broken branches."
But by Thursday night on Nov. 1, scary tales of "where were you when the lights went out" were now beginning to sound like old news.
George and Rosa K. of Greenbrook came to Starbucks for the WiFi, but stayed most of the day for the coffee and conversation. Rosa noted that the Wallgreens near her had power and was offering a charging station to customers. Westfield's Wallgreens has a similar set up at their North Avenue store.
Many storm preparation tips could be heard being exchanged among the patrons while waiting for a charge and enjoying a cup, or two, or three, of coffee.
Aside from filling up gas tanks in advance, George told Patch that he was especially glad he had decided to install Anderson windows a few years ago.
"We didn't feel the slightest draft, even during the heaviest winds during the storm." He added, "We have a gas stove and hot water, and have been keeping our food cold by keeping it outside on the screened-in porch."
As friends and acquaintances bumped into each other at the popular spot throughout the rest of the day, the sharing continued. Besides letting others know what's open, where to get gas or food, one gentleman added, you might also want to keep a folding chair in your trunk. It might just come in handy when you are lucky enough to find a place like the Union Starbucks!
There's nothing like a good cup of coffee to start (and end) the day. Thanks, Starbucks.