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New Geneva Coffee Shop Carries on a Familiar Name

Monaco's Coffee in Geneva, NY
Monaco's Coffee

There’s a new coffee shop in Geneva, just north the Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus. The storefront, at the corner of Pulteney and Washington was most recently a hair salon, but for a long time before that it was a local, family market.

“My grandfather started Monaco’s in 1917,” say Joan Doeblin.

Her father ran Monaco’s Market on Washington Street after her grandfather retired from the business. I sat with her on a Friday morning in the newly opened coffee shop, which is called Monaco’s. It was bustling with people drinking coffee, eating breakfast, and working. I wanted to know a little bit more about Doeblin’s family’s market that gave the coffee shop its name.

“And in 1933, he said, ‘John,’ after the depression, I was a depression baby. He said, ‘John would you like to take the business? I want to retire.’ And, my father didn’t have a job, so that was a blessing.”

Monaco’s Market originally opened in a smaller storefront next door. Doeblin remembers living in an apartment upstairs from that storefront. And, she remembers the way that Monaco’s was a part of the life of the community.

“I have so many friends who tell me, your Dad took care of me when I had my kids and he’d say, ‘Don’t come and get them, we’ll send them over’ with the boy who came from high school and worked. They stared in the little store and moved into here in the 50s.”

Doeblin still lives in family’s home behind the building that housed Monaco’s. In recent years, James-Emery Elkin, who opened Microclimate and The Linden Social Club on Linden Street in downtown Geneva, moved into that apartment above the little store where Doeblin once lived. Over dinner one night, Elkin told Doeblin that he and a business partner intended to open a coffee shop in the building. He asked her permission to carry on the name.

“I don’t know what else we could have possibly named this thing to be honest. When I was in middle school, we’d come down the street. It’s the old middle school, for many the old high school. Depending on when you were living here and growing up. You would have walked a block or two to Monaco’s here at 115 Washington Street right at the intersection with Pulteney. You would have gotten some penny candy, you know, the fish maybe, or you would have been sent by your mother, your grandmother, or your parents, or somebody anyways to get a slice of cheese from the big wheel.”

Elkin’s business partner is Josh Decker. He’s been behind the bar at a number of the new businesses that have sprung up around Geneva in recent years and he’s worked in the cider industry as well. Decker’s interest in beverages of all kinds is broad and he’s noticed an absence of an evening alternative to Geneva’s thriving bar and restaurant scene.

“I would be coming home from work when I was working at Rootstock as a cider maker and I wouldn’t have any place to go and be productive. So, basically I was like, there’s a need for that. A lot of people ask where to get coffee and I just wanted to create the space. It just seemed like too ideal of a location, so it made sense. It was like putting two and two together, basically.”

Decker thinks that a third-wave coffee shop makes a lot of sense as an addition to the Geneva culinary scene. What’s especially appealing, though, is creating the sort of center to the community that Monaco’s Market once was...a place where people gathered and lingered together.

“Especially when I go to other cities, I’m so interested in going to their coffee shops and checking out what they have, their style. Everywhere’s a little bit different. It’s about kind of dreaming up a space and making it kind of refreshing feeling. A space to be productive, open a laptop. It’s different than being in a bar, which Geneva has.”

For her part, Joan Doeblin is pleased with the space’s transformation and enjoys coming in for a cup of coffee herself. And, she believes her father would approve.

“Oh, I think he’d love this. He would love this because he was a people person. Every time somebody was sick in the neighborhood he’d ask my mother to bake something for them and then take it over. She didn’t even know them. She go to the door and they’d let her in. ‘I’m John’s wife.’”

Monaco’s Coffee is open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Washington at the corner of Pulteney in Geneva.

Kelly Walker started his public radio career at WBAA in West Lafayette, Indiana in 1985 and has spent some time in just about every role public broadcasting has to offer. He has spent substantive time in programming and development at KWMU in St. Louis, WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, and Troy Public Radio in Alabama before his arrival in Geneva, New York. In addition, his work has been heard on many other public radio stations as well as NPR. Kelly also produces The Sundilla Radio Hour, which airs Sundays at 1 p.m. on Finger Lakes Public Radio and is distributed to public radio stations all over the country through PRX.
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