Sipping coffee in Montclair, savoring wildlife with a councilman (Robin’s Nest)
By ROBIN WOODS
For Montclair Local
I’m back to carefully exploring Montclair while double-masked, after doing preliminary phone interviews before venturing out into the world for face-to-face meetings to find the special twists I’m known for.
Founder and owner Jonathan Echeverry sat down with me to share how Paper Plane Coffee Co. came to be. I was late to the game trying the coffee at Paper Plane, but I’m now a customer and fan.
Coffee and tea businesses abound in town, but Paper Plane stands out with an international back story, told to me by Echeverry. He’s the fifth generation of coffee growers in his family, going back 150 years to Santuario, Colombia. The coffee farm in Colombia also grows eucalyptus plants on the plains. Eucalyptus is used to make writing paper. Plains, paper and planes, a fine play on words.
Echeverry opened the first PPCC in Brooklyn in 2015, and then in Montclair, where he resides with his wife and children. On opening day, Sept. 9, 2019, he and his wife Lauren got married at the store.
Coming soon in 2022, the store is expanding into the former space of Dem Two Hands on North Fullerton Avenue. Staff will be able to access both locations through a connecting wall from Claremont Avenue.
A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, Echeverry’s also an educator ready to hold classes in the planned tasting and education area, where we can learn about coffee roasting, extraction methods and how to brew those perfect cups of coffee.
Coffee! Time for me to talk about the coffee. I loved the Coco Rico hot coffee drink from the Science section of the menu. Made with coconut cream, rum extract, nutmeg, cinnamon, oat milk and espresso, it’s the coffee version of Coquito.
Now retired until next holiday season, I’ll replace it with Butterbroo. It’s made from magic, with spiced simple syrup, salt, Oatly milk alternative and espresso. An homage to Harry Potter and butterbeer, this literary wizardry reference went right over my head. Are you waiting for the next PPCC specialty coffee rollout? It’s going to be Tainted Love for Valentine’s Day, made from strawberry and chocolate Nesquick and espresso. You’re welcome for the advance notice.
A special bonus factoid for you, from Echeverry: “I am also an actor, who does voice-overs. I am the voice of Friskies cat food’s orange cat.”
He's a man of many talents, who has a recording studio in his home. Does he like to drink coffee? Well, of course he does, saying, “I love black coffee, to get the true taste. Our single-origin coffee is freshly roasted on site.”
Don’t worry about running out of coffee, it’s sold in PPCC whole bean single-origin proprietary varieties as well for brewing at home.
From coffee to politics
Fully caffeinated and ready to find out something new, I shared a leisurely lunch with Councilman at Large Peter Yacobellis in my back booth “office” kindly allocated to me by Montclair House Grill owner Chris Ioannou.
Since 2020, Yacobellis has served on Township Council, looking to the four ward representatives to share information about their own parts of town. No shrinking violet, he’s often seen around town, posting in social media and emailing frequent updates to residents.
He's the first openly gay person to serve on the council, and is the founder of Out Montclair, a nonprofit organization that raises awareness and provides support for the LGBTQIA+ adult and teen community through special events in safe spaces. He's the group's president and board chair.
There's much more to Yacobellis than that.
“I was born gay to a 17-year-old single mother. Growing up, I had no one to relate to, and knew enough not to tell anyone. I blended in, but was bullied and beaten up as a kid.” Finally feeling more comfortable in his own skin in his 40s, he resides in the Fourth Ward with his partner, Benjamin Bright.
Yacobellis introduced the indoor mask mandate resolution requiring that masks be worn indoors in public places in town, which took effect on Dec. 21, 2021, for a 30-day renewable period, and was extended on Jan. 18 until March 31. He’s also a strong supporter of a permanent skateboard space in Rand Park, and it’s slowly moving its way into becoming a reality.
When I asked Yacobellis about his plans and dreams for the rest of his term, he said, “I would like to see an updated transportation infrastructure, construction of a new municipal complex, an affordable housing strategy and a full-time economic development office.”
He’s an energetic, intensely focused man.
His biggest passion, aside from serving the community, is photography and traveling around the world. So far, he’s been to 45 countries and six continents in search of endangered species to photograph, visiting such far-flung places as Cambodia, Madagascar and Uganda. He’ll be traveling next to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
Yes, I had to look that one up. Six endangered species are found there, including the giant tortoise, penguins and blue-footed boobies. The latter are marine birds, but the teenager in me came up with a mind picture that made me chuckle out loud.
He uses a Nikon d7500 camera, and said, “It takes outstanding pictures that can be blown up very large. I want to help the place I live through conservation photography.” You can find some of his photos for sale on etsy.com, Pics2Conserve. A portion of his sales are donated to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
On a personal note, I am thrilled that my talented photographer, Neil Grabowsky, is back to doing what he does best after the devastating loss of his studio, vehicle and equipment to Hurricane Ida.
Go to ttlstudios.com to discover that Neil does much more than just take great photos. He’s like a little brother to me, and a fellow redhead. We were together twice in the same week to prepare for this article to go to print, a rare treat for me in this time of anxiety and worry.
Or am I drinking too much coffee? No, there's no such thing as too much coffee, or photos of adorable giraffes and gorillas.
In this article:
- Paper Plane Coffee Co.
194 Claremont Ave., 973-746-2739
- Councilman Peter Yacobellis
Robin Woods is a local girl-about-town, writing about activities, stores, restaurants and interesting people that catch her eye. She’s written memoirs and personal essays, as well as music and fashion columns for various New York City newspapers. Her writing awards include the Shirley Chisholm Award for Journalism and the Director’s Award of the Essex County Legacies Essay contest.