Enjoy this interview with Jason Belkin, espresso lover and owner of a business we all know and love, Hampton Coffee Company! Read with a hot cup of your favorite brew in hand if you wish!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did Hampton Coffee Company come to be and was this something you always wanted to do? How is HCC different from other coffee shops?
Hampton Coffee Company started 19 years ago, so when I was a college student at NYU, I worked for the original owner one summer as a barista/assistant manager. I thought it was the best summer job ever! Since there was only one Starbucks on all of Long Island at that time, specialty coffee was still very new on the East Coast, so HCC was a very unique place. I graduated and started working in my career field of journalism and public relations. One day, I found out that Hampton Coffee Company was for sale and I thought it was now or never to take a chance on my dream of owning an espresso bar.
Since then, my wife and I have grown this single sleepy espresso bar and small roastery into a bustling little mini-chain of espresso bars and cafes in The Hamptons with wholesale coffee partners throughout the state. I always knew that HCC was a special and unique business. We treat each and every customer as a VIP and take care to produce only top quality coffee and food. We value our staff and the company’s positive role in the community.
2. Are you a coffee lover yourself? Can you share any physical benefits of drinking coffee?
I love coffee. Lately, I especially enjoy our Westhampton Beach Blend and our new Southampton Organic Blend. Coffee has a lot of great health benefits. If you follow us on social media, you will see us posting all the time about the greatness of the coffee bean. Of course, you shouldn’t overdo anything, but coffee has shown to reduce the onset of Alzheimers and other diseases and increase short-term memory in addition to boosting metabolism and waking us up. Coffee also has lots of antioxidants, similar to green tea! In fact, just the other day on the radio, Dr. Oz said to skip the harmful-to-your-body energy drinks and chemicals and just stick to an old-fashioned cup of coffee to stay alert and improve your mood.
3. How does Hampton Coffee fit in to the healthy Hamptons lifestyle?
Hampton Coffee Company is an important part of an overall healthy Hamptons lifestyle. Our menu has something for everyone, whether you’re fueling up for a workout or a local 5k, indulging in comforting baked goods, following a certain diet, or just picking up a cup of coffee. My wife and I, and our staff, are members of the community like everyone else and we have built a business in and for the community to serve the values of the Hamptons people. Customers stop in to and from the gym or park their bikes outside. We fit into an active Hamptons routine. Health is a part of life in the Hamptons and we have everything you need for a healthy day.
Folks can kickstart their day with a healthy breakfast or stop by after a work out for a fresh fruit smoothie – nothing but real fruit! Of course, you’ve got to have some baked goods and sweets to go with your coffee. Even our made-from-scratch Krispy Treats are low-fat, our Raspberry Oat Bars are healthy and all-natural, and all our expertly-prepared espresso bar drinks can be ordered with skim milk and sugar-free syrup. We understand that our customers rely us on for dependable coffee and fresh food that won’t break the bank or the waistline!
4. What is your favorite workout? Favorite family activity?
I am a big fan of Core Dynamics in Water Mill, although my trainer, Jim McWinnie, will tell you for sure that I need to get in there more…much, much, more. It’s really a challenge to make the gym a part of my life with two kids under 3 and a busy, growing business, but it is going to be my resolution for 2014!
We are constantly running around with the kids, so that keeps us active. My favorite family activity when my kids get older is going to be going to Disney World, I used to love going when I was younger with my family. Disney World is the best place anywhere. In the meantime, we love Safari Adventure in Riverhead, Target (they have Play Doh!), and we have a great time in our own backyard having fun. My three-year-old, Cian, loves Play Doh and Legos and our little guy, Oran, loves balls, so we keep busy!
5. As a business owner, father, husband, and member of the community how do you maintain balance in your life?
It is super hard to keep balance in my life, but to be honest, I think I actually do a pretty good job (except for the going to the gym part!) Balancing work and family can be tough, but it’s a must. I do usually have two days off which I spend doing family things. On vacations, I forget about work, which allows me to focus on family and also rest and recharge myself. My family is more important to me than my business. If push came to shove, I would choose them over Hampton Coffee Company in a second. I think that’s a real important perspective to have and I have to credit my wife, Theresa, for reminding me that the reason I work hard is so that I have time on my days off for my family. Although running the business is a lot, I am home virtually every night since my kids were born.
6. Any great healthy/balance tips for other busy folks?
One trick I have since it’s hard to eat right when you’re busy at work and surrounded by delicious food is that I always share my lunch at work with someone so we’re both only eating half! I have been trying to keep a refillable bottle of water right in front of me on my desk at work to remind me to drink. And I try to remind myself that I can only do one thing at a time. Of course, it’s always helpful to try to carve out a date night every week or two to get away for a few hours and do something outside of the family “routine.”
7. What food items do you always keep in your house?
I am addicted to Tangerine juice lately (I dilute it 50/50 with filtered water.) We always have peanut butter on hand as well as yogurt, apple juice, cereal, eggs, bread, cheese, and milk for the kids. Dinner may include frozen shrimp, tacos for “Taco Night!” or fish sticks – not minced! 🙂
8. What is your favorite indulgence?
I love filet mignon with béarnaise sauce. If that’s on the menu, I treat myself. Other favorites include pumpkin pancakes with real maple syrup, boneless spare ribs, (well done) shrimp cocktail, pigs in a blanket (I know I’m not alone on that one!) and, Mountain Dew (less and less, though.)
9. How do you make health a priority in your family?
It’s definitely more of a challenge with two little kids. They come first, so when we come home, our main goal is to get dinner for them on the table as quick as possible so we can move on to baths and then bed. Although it’s a lot harder to find the time to focus on healthy dinners for us, having kids has started us on some new healthy eating habits. We are starting to eliminate soda from our house so that as the kids get older, it won’t be here for them to drink, as with all other artificially sweetened drinks. Having kids is also encouraging us to serve more well-balanced meals, so of course we’re benefiting from that as well. No more eating take-out in front of a movie on the couch! Although after a rough night with the kids, a pint of Haagen Daz sometimes mysteriously disappears!
10. What is your FAVORITE thing about living in the Hamptons?
I’m so glad you asked, this just came up the other day when I was talking with one of my customers. We were saying how lucky we are to live in The Hamptons. It truly is such a unique and special place; I’m even wiling to go out on a limb and say on of the best places in the world to live. We really are so fortunate. Not to say everything is perfect here, but we have forests and oceans within a few miles of each other, lots of wildlife, beaches, fishing, parks, amazing schools, so much to do, stores, restaurants, and main streets that most people only see in movies. Plus, we’re so close to New York City, which brings an eclectic group of people who call the Hamptons home.
Where else can you dine with billionaires and farmers in the same room? Or pass a potato trailer and a mansion on your way to work? We have so much fresh food and so many wonderful cafés, markets, and artisans. If you’re a go-getter there’s ample opportunity for you and if you’re an outgoing and resourceful student, this is a great place to grow up and start on a successful path.
My favorite thing about living in The Hamptons has to be Hampton Coffee Company, of course! Seriously, if it wasn’t for Hampton Coffee, I wouldn’t be living here. I wouldn’t be raising my family here. I wouldn’t have met all the wonderful co-workers and suppliers and customers over the past 14 years. I wouldn’t have been able to provide jobs for hundreds of people over the years either. I wouldn’t have been able to support more than 100 local organizations every year. I am so proud that Hampton Coffee Company has become such an important part of what is The Hamptons.
One Healthy Breakdown: Thank goodness this man followed his dreams, the Hamptons absolutely wouldn’t be the same without HCC!