If you’ve been lucky enough to pass through Perotti Park in Newport this summer when disembarking the Jamestown-Newport Shuttle Boat or the Block Island Ferry, you might have noticed a quirky wooden tricycle cart peddling some of the best java in town. No, it’s not a mirage brought on by too many overpriced, undersized cash bar boat drinks — it’s the Simple Merchant Coffee Cart, which serves up craft javas to perk up even the groggiest morning! I sat down for a chat between pours with Jordan Durand, the affable owner and barista extraordinaire, to get the skinny (macchiato) on what makes Simple Merchant so complex!
Morgan Capodilupo (Motif): What’s your background in the food industry? Tell me a bit about yourself.
Jordan Durand: I started working in the service industry about 10 years ago, just after college. I worked in different restaurants, breakfast places and bars in Newport, Rhode Island, and Portland, Oregon. I honestly feel like I didn’t choose the service industry, it chose me, and I think it’s important to let that happen naturally sometimes. I am father to my two children, Luna and Juneau, a husband to my wife Jade, and a best friend to my dog Renley. I also love coffee!
MC️: How did Simple Merchant get started?
JD: I came across a coffee service bike on the internet and I thought it would be really cool to do a mobile espresso bar. Around the same time I also came across an article about “Viking Hot Dog” and their journey to creating mobile food licenses in Newport. I read there were a limited number of licenses and Jade and I jumped at the opportunity to build the bike and capture one of the last licenses.
MC: What is your favorite drink to make at Simple Merchant? Any “secret menu” items?
JD: I don’t know about a favorite drink, honestly I just love being there making whatever drink can make somebody happy, but I can say the most rewarding is to work to “dial in” an espresso with a new coffee. The process of “dialing in” an espresso can be frustrating, a little wasteful, and discouraging at times. It involves grinding the coffee as fine or coarse as needed to arrive at a proper extraction, and choosing the amount of coffee that goes into the portafilter and the amount of liquid that ends up in the cup. Coffee can really be a challenge, but a delicious cup of coffee is the greatest reward. Come try a flat white, a drink that I drink regularly and a not-so-secret menu item.
MC: How has slinging coffee in COVID-19 been?
JD: This year feels kind of weird in Newport. There are definitely people out, but it feels like summer never really kicked off. It’s really kind of a bummer. But I’m so grateful for all the people who are getting out, traveling to Newport and spending time, and out there supporting small businesses and the service industry.
MC: Where do you see the future of Simple Merchant? Brick n’ mortar? Coffee cart world takeover?
JD: [Laughs] We’re just taking it one espresso at a time right now. We’re having a blast with the mobile espresso bar on a tricycle. This past weekend we were able to bring our services to a wedding, and that was truly rewarding and a lot of fun. It’s been great to be out there in the sun making great drinks. Coffee is such an unbelievable thing, there’s always more to learn and new coffees to try. We would love to open a brick and mortar, and we would love to do it in Newport. I think timing may be key right now, the pandemic is unpredictable. That being said, I can’t wait to have a physical location for my customers where we can all be together and enjoy some coffee whether it’s raining or snowing, and through the cold winter months. And yeah, coffee cart world takeover, but first, coffee!
See what all the buzz is about at the Simple Merchant Coffee Cart in Perotti Park Mon – Thu from 11am – 6:30pm, weather permitting, and be sure to follow them on Instagram @simplemerchantcoffee to stay up to date with the latte-est info!