Coffee Clash

It's war between baristas on wheels

Parked just outside a subway stop on Astor Place, the Mud Truck draws a constant line of coffee addicts in a city already choked with java joints (a second vehicle dispenses beverages at Seventh Avenue South and West 4th Street). The orange-colored, hippie-garb-festooned truck that dispenses "gourmet" caffeine is forever busy, even though it's hemmed in by two Starbucks outlets, each about a football field away to the east and west.

That was impressive to roommates John Fuchs and Andrew Mohrer, two Brooklyn bartenders who recently spent considerable time spying on the mobile business, posing as a couple of ordinary customers. Hoping to replicate the Mud Truck's success in Brooklyn, the duo repeatedly waited in line, taking notes of the truck's features and counting up the sales: 83 orders in a single hour. "They're doing good business," Mohrer says.

Pooling their entire fortunes, the young pair sunk $35,000 into a truck of their own, equipped with espresso machine, cooling system, generator, refrigerator, and a shelf for their panini press. A friend, James McDonald, painted the truck with Brooklyn scenes. To thank him, they named a panini after him: Jimmy's Mozzarella.

But over the last six weeks, Fuchs and Mohrer couldn't find a Brooklyn location that yielded decent sales. Their truck was repeatedly chased away by angry cart vendors, and lines failed to form.

Three weeks ago, they parked their new business, which they call Brooklyn's Brown, just four blocks south of the original Mud Truck itself.

This declaration of war has gone largely unnoticed by the Mud Truck itself. "I'm not worried at all," says Mud Truck owner Greg Northrop. "No one is going to touch us." And he offered this salvo: "They better not come near Astor. We'll see how much street they have."

Mohrer counters that he's confident the new guys in town will successfully invade the East Village.

"Everyone wants a piece of Brooklyn these days," he says.

 
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