When the recession hit in 2008, Murat Yilmaz was one of many in New York who were put into a tough spot. He was working for a boutique PR agency, with clients from global governmental agencies and the financial industry, which was forced to shut down.
All of a sudden, he found himself shifting into a freelance consultant role, working out of coffee shops and connecting portfolio managers to analysts in Europe.
Murat is Turkish, and grew up surrounded by coffee, so he had always felt at home in cafes, and is something of a connoisseur. When he began doing freelance work, he found himself asking coffee shop owners and baristas a lot of questions about the ins and outs of their jobs, and paying keen attention to everything that was going on around him. “I had always wanted to open a coffee shop when I retired,” he says, “that was a dream of mine.”
When his freelance job eventually fell through due to the company being bought out, Murat decided there was no reason to wait until retirement to follow that dream. He bought a space in Midtown Manhattan that formerly belonged to Je & Jo, an ice cream place that also served coffee, and opened The Jolly Goat – a coffee shop that also serves ice cream sandwiches.
Although their location on 47th between 10th and 11th is a little out of the way, The Jolly Goat has become a true neighborhood staple, and draws business from nearby apartments and offices. In the short time Murat and I sat on the bench in front of the shop discussing coffee and his business, no less than 15 passersby stopped to chat with him. Murat is the kind of guy that knows everybody in his neighborhood, and its clear that those neighbors have a lot of love for The Jolly Goat.
Earlier this year, Murat opened up a downtown location at the nexus of the universe, 1st and 1st. Named The Lazy Llama, this shop is quickly becoming a local hub just like its forebear, and Murat says he now finds himself getting recognized in the street around the Lower East Side too.
Both of Murat’s shops serve Stumptown coffee, and his goal is to provide each customer with the absolute best possible experience, from the warm, friendly atmosphere to an intense focus on the quality and consistency of each cup of coffee.
“Most important to me is customer service – that’s number one,” says Murat of his priorities as a business owner. “When I hire new employees, the first thing i tell them is to check out our Yelp page – its always like, ‘Such nice staff, such great customer service.’ It’s all about that. That’s how we became a neighborhood coffee shop in this area.”
When asked what the future holds for his shops and the industry at large, Murat says, “A new wave in cold coffee has already started, with so many coffee roasters and shops introducing all kinds of cold brews on tap and bottled –and even canned cold brews.” He mentions Stumptown’s developments on this front, and says that he’s considering putting their Winter Cheer blend on tap at The Jolly Goat this winter.
He’s also recently gotten into roasting, which is something that has always fascinated him, and is currently selling his own coffee on drip and cold brew at both shops. Someday, he plans to get involved more directly on the farming side, too.
The Jolly Goat and The Lazy Llama are two of our favorite New York coffee shops, and we look forward to whatever it is that the future holds for Murat and his team.