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“When you can make people happy and keep them coming back,that’s what it’s all about.”
Co-Owner Jesse Daino

The Daily Grind

Co-Owners and best friends Adam Williams and Jesse Daino turn a struggling coffee shop into a successful business.

Recess Coffee House and Roastery in Syracuse isn’t your average Starbucks.

If not for the large sign hanging from the second floor, Recess would blend in with the other two-story houses in the Westcott neighborhood. And once inside, the smell of fresh roasted coffee and homemade baked goods instantly puts any visitor at ease.

The shop is made up of two large rooms with artwork from local artists on the walls. Some of the tables have wall lamps for the customers that choose to read or study. If your visit is more social able take a choice of mix and matched chairs, tables, and couches for a more intimate time.

Music ranging from classic rock, soft rock, or alternative plays softly through the speakers in the corners.

The music is sometimes drowned out by the sounds of the most recent drink order. The clanking of the portafilter locking into place under the brew head or the slow drip of concentrated espresso flowing into a small silver cup. If it’s a cappuccino, latte, or breve the noise isn’t over yet. Next comes the whistling and hissing of the submerged steam wand as it steams, or froths, the milk.

This is the type of atmosphere that keeps people like Tarcy Cherlin, Syracuse University biochemistry sophomore coming back.

Cherlin first heard of Recess from her older sister that attended SU before her.

“This was my sister’s favorite spot to come,” said Cherlin. “She just shared it with me and it stuck.”

Cherlin said the comfortable atmosphere and enjoyable setting gives her a place to get away from campus. Recess has more of a unique feel to Cherlin than a chain coffee shop like Tim Horton’s.

For others, it’s the quality of Recess’s coffee and baked goods.

“ Every time I try something new here, it’s the best,” said Nicholas Oliver, an East Syracuse native. “I would say that the sugar cookies are hands down some of the best I’ve ever had.”

Although the focus at Recess is on drinks, they do offer fresh baked vegan goods such as blueberry coffee cake muffins, almond biscotti and lemon berry cupcakes.

With both arms covered in tattoo art, dark rimmed glasses, black pants, and heavy metal band T-shirt, baking would be that last profession one would think he did.
Adam Williams opened Recess with longtime friend Jesse Daino in December 2007. The previous owner of Recess had a change of heart and offered to sell the shop to Williams and Daino.

“It was pretty beat up and wasn’t making any money,” said Williams. “It wasn’t really doing much.”

Since taking over the coffee house, Williams said that the shop is 100 percent different.

“The first year was kind of odd and scary but we really didn’t have a lot invested,” said Williams.

Before opening the coffee shop, Daino was living with Williams while touring the United States with his heavy metal band and offered to work at the coffee shop part time.

“I had a few grand saved up,” said Daino. “I thought about it for awhile and figured that it would be a fun thing to do in between tours.”

After the first year of business, Williams and Daino realized that if they worked hard they could be successful.

“We’re certainly not pros at owning business,” said Williams. “But we’re getting pretty good at it and people really like the shop.”

This commitment to the business can be seen by spending any amount of time around Williams. Often having drinks orders ready before many of the customers even reach the counter, William’s makes it a point to get to know many of his regulars.

Williams said that this work ethic seems to run in his and Daino’s blood.

“Both our grandparents owned a ton of businesses,” said Williams. “We were both instilled with that work ethic that you’ve gotta work hard no matter if you’re getting paid or not.”

For Daino and Williams, turning Recess into a profitable business has taken time.

The two had little experience with inventory, responsibilities, and finances that are crucial to keeping a business running smoothly.

“Those first couple of years were really important,” said Williams. “We really didn’t have a lot of experience and we were learning while working,”

One of the main ways to see Recess’s progression is the amount of product that the shop moves now compared to what it sold when the shop first opened.
In the beginning, Recess would go through about one 150-pound bag of coffee every two weeks.

That number has quadrupled.

Now, Recess goes through almost eight bags of coffee per month and they are selling more baked goods, too.

“I used to bake twice a week,” said Daino. “Maybe some cookies but there was no rhyme or reason now I bake every single day that I’m here,” said Daino.

They plan to keep growing the coffee shop and continue to give their clients a relaxed atmosphere in a busy world.

“When you can make people and happy and keep them coming back,” said Daino,
“that’s what it’s all about.”