Coffee—and much more—at the 2nd Cup
Kat and Wil Taylor
How do you compete with the coffee biggies—the Starbuckses, Tim Hortonses, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Spots? How do you carve out a niche, and create a java-lovin’ fan base? Ask Kat Tyler. After successfully operating the EM Tea Coffee Cup Café at 80 Oakgrove Avenue (884-1444), Tyler and her husband Wil embraced the famous, long-neglected Buehl Building, and gave it new life as the 2nd Cup. The café, restaurant, and coffee shop at 36 Broadway Avenue (840-0048, www.2ndcup.com) is a true local success story, and a sign that one can, indeed, take on the big boys—if the brew is good enough. But as Kat Tyler explains, coffee is just part of the story.
Starting a coffee shop in a world of Starbucks, Tim Hortons, etc., not to mention Spot Coffee, seems like a daunting task. Is it hard to compete with them?
We don’t compete with other cafés because we aren’t just known for coffee and teas. People come for our food, desserts, and atmosphere … It’s the café business, not coffee.
I’m sure part of staying unique is the location, too.
Downtown is a whole different animal. During the day the crowd can range from students to the mayor. I thought this would be a great location because of the surrounding businesses, although business diminished a little after the DMV moved. The major draw was the owner on the Buehl Block Building, Roger Trettel; he genuinely cares about Buffalo and its progression. ... He canvassed my other café, the EM Tea Coffee Cup Café and liked it. We came together and the rest is history.
You have a clientele that likely includes lawyers and politicians. In other words, people who drink lots of coffee. What kind of response have you had from these folks?
Most people like our food. Most offices have coffee in-house; however, we do offer a deal that if you bring in your own cup, you get it for $1. We use free-trade coffees, both local and national brands, and we have regular everyday coffees and some custom-made blends.
Did you two always have an interest in a coffee business?
We always travelled, and we noticed a lot of coffeehouses sprouting up about eleven years ago. Also, when I was at Buffalo State there wasn’t a place to eat and have study groups. Local restaurants wanted students to eat and get out. Libraries wouldn’t let you eat and drink and talk.
It’s nice to see a couple working together on a successful business. Is it fun to work with your spouse?
Yes, it’s fun. My husband Wil is a Buffalo firefighter, and was recently appointed to fire investigator. He also works downtown. And my son Sterling runs the other café—so it’s all in the family.
You already have events at 2nd Cup—tango lessons the first Wednesday of every month, jazz jam sessions, parties, art openings—and have even organized group trips. What’s the future hold?
We are working on an Ansul [kitchen] system, so I can increase the menu. Some people have had my cooking from catering orders and are demanding that some of those items be made available on our everyday menu. Most of our customers are attracted to our cafés because we sell a lot of turkey products as a healthy alternative, so we’re going to try to extend our menu to include more turkey meals and choices. And we’ve received numerous offers to open more locations in Buffalo and other places—Atlanta, San Francisco, Charlotte. I may need to franchise!