After 17 years roasting and serving coffee from their shop in Sag Harbor, the proprietors of Java Nation were notified by certified letter on Dec. 9 that they must vacate their rented premises by Jan. 31. The reasons behind the unexpected news are not fully known, although the space will, in the future, be rented by a local businessman associated with Collette Designer Consignments, a neighboring boutique in the Shopping Cove off Main Street.
The Sag Harbor Express ignited something of an online firestorm when it reported two days before Christmas that the new tenant will create another coffee shop in the space, gutting it and renovating it to create what the current tenant was quoted as calling “a new upscale environment.”
According to Andres Bedini, who runs Java Nation with his wife, Cheryl, the cove’s landlord, Bruce Slovin, has offered little by way of explanation. The Bedinis, who have had a month-to-month arrangement for the last four years of their long run, say they were assured by Mr. Slovin, “If you pay, you stay.” They say they have paid, but were not offered the chance to stay. They added that the business celebrated its busiest summer, fall, and holiday season on record; they are disappointed that they have only a few weeks to find an alternative location.
The Bedinis say they believed they had maintained a good landlord-tenant relationship over the years, even having employed members of Mr. Slovin’s family. The only negative comment the couple said they could recall from Mr. Slovin was when, they claim, he remarked on the clientele he noticed during a visit when a few landscapers had stopped in for coffee.
Tisha Collette, who was elsewhere reported to be the holder of the new lease, said on Tuesday that there has been a lot of misinformation circulating, and that she has received hate mail as a result. She clarified that the new tenant is her husband, Shane Dyckman, who negotiated the rental agreement after learning that the landlord was intent on removing Java Nation. She said that Mr. Slovin had previously been in negotiations with another coffee company, based in New York City.
In online comments posted on New Year’s Eve on The Sag Harbor Express’s Web site, Mr. Dyckman said that the anger directed at him and his wife is misplaced and that he is not a big-city interloper, as some may have inferred. He has lived in Sag Harbor his whole life, volunteering as a firefighter, operating a surf school, and raising children. He added that he and his wife employ more than two dozen residents through their various businesses.
In addition to running Flying Point Surf School and Collette Designer Consignment, the couple have recently opened a boutique on Hampton Road in Southampton that offers consignment home furnishings and men’s clothing.
Ms. Collette has had issues with the aroma and residue of coffee beans roasting that drifts on the air out of Java Nation. On Columbus Day weekend, she called the police about the situation, but there was no apparent course of legal action. The Bedinis say they tried to accommodate Ms. Collette by roasting off- hours whenever possible, but that the high demand from their wholesale customers — including local restaurants such as Tutto il Giorno, Dockside, Armand’s, and Breadzilla — sometimes made this impossible.
“We are not doing anything wrong,” Ms. Bedini said. “We are meticulous about the maintenance of the roaster. It was made in California with the strongest E.P.A. standards, and we have never failed any inspection.”
The backbone of Java Nation’s success, she said, is roasting, not serving lattes and espressos. “It is the reason our coffee is so good,” she said. “It is the reason people come here, and it is the mainstay of our business. Roasting also helps to manage the fluctuations in coffee prices.” Ms. Bedini glanced at the large menu above and added, “In 17 years, the coffee price has only gone up 60 cents.”
Tuesday’s interview with Ms. Bedini was interrupted frequently by customers who wanted to voice their dismay. “I don’t want them to go,” said Mike Stern. “I have been coming here since I was 5 years old. I am getting choked up, it sucks.” Ms. Bedini greeted her customers by their first names. One sat knitting, another taught a child about planets on a computer; a police officer stopped in for his daily cup.
John Monteleone, one habitué, expressed his opinion that the conflict was a result of classism. “Sag Harbor was a passionate town of artists,” he said. “It’s disgusting that landlords and businesses think they can buy it up and throw us out. People forget what founded this town. This business took years to build. . . .”
What now? “We will go to another space, ideally in Sag Harbor, and roast coffee,” Ms. Bedini said.
And, indeed — with the recent closings of Whalers Cleaners & Tailors, Vincenzo’s Pizza, Bikehampton, and other longtime stalwarts — the vacancy rate along Main Streetis at an all-time high. “There are plenty of spaces available,” she said. “We know exactly what we are doing.”