Cafe Sells New York City Tap Water For $2.50 a Glass
EAST VILLAGE — A new café recently opened up on East 10th Street — but don't expect to find customers sipping on lattes.
Molecule, aka the Water Café, is filtering New York City tap water down to its purest form and serving it for $2.50 to thirsty local patrons using a custom-made device worth more than $20,000.
"It's about treating water a little more consciously, mindfully and respectfully," said co-owner Adam Ruhf, 32, who has a background in music and activism.
But the store is not only planning to peddle its gallons for in-home use, as passersby can stop in for a quick gulp — complete with an option to add vitamin supplements to their H2O cocktails.
The store has been in the works for 18 months, with Ruhf taking the concept of self-service water shops in Los Angeles and building on the theme.
"This is like a water store 2.0," he said of the opening, which was first reported on EV Grieve.
Ruhf knows first hand the healing properties of purified water, claiming that drinking it regularly helped eased the pain caused brought on by two serious car accidents that left him without a spleen and a leg held together with metal pins.
"It's more of an intuitive thing about cleanliness," he explained of how water helped him recover. "Not wanting toxins [from unfiltered water] to further inhibit my recovery."
His store, located between First Avenue and Avenue A, first takes city water heavy with chlorine, fluoride and compound metals and sends it through its towering 8-foot filter behind the counter.
From there, customers can walk in off the street for a single 16-ounce serving, with their choice of supplements such as an immunity or energy boost.
"Our supplements are based on medicinal herbs and roots from around the world," said Ruhf, who said he worked with chemists and nutritionists to create the mixes.
Ingredients have been gathered from far and wide, such as the cordyceps mushroom, which has been know to help the immune system and grows in Tibet, Nepal and China, he explained.
A serving of the supplemented water costs $2 and is mixed on the spot. A "To Go Glass" of water runs $2.50. A gallon costs $3.
The store will also deliver 3 or 5 gallons of purified water to residents living in the East Village — from Fourth Avenue to the East River, between East 14th and East Houston streets — when its restored three-wheeled bike arrives in the coming days. Delivery will be free on minimum 5-gallon orders.
"We are going to deliver on a bike with good old-fashioned manpower, or woman power," said Ruhf, adding that conserving the environment is a core value of the new venture.
The store will also stock reusable glass jars for its single servings that patrons can buy for an additional 50 cents, but staff said they'd like customers to bring their own cups.
"We prefer people to come with their own containers," said Alexander Venet, a partner in the business who also owns the nearby Crooked Tree restaurant. He jumped on board the project in January as soon as Ruhf pitched him the idea.
Venet and Ruhf, who lives in the East Village, both decided to open in the neighborhood because of younger residents' willingness to try something new.
"There is a good concentration of people who would understand what we are doing without much explanation from the beginning," Ruhf explained.
One of those customers, Benjamin Seiter, is already hooked on the new café after only two visits.
"It was sweet and tasted good," said the self-proclaimed "water guy," a real estate professional who's lived in the East Village for the past seven years.
While Seiter occasionally drinks iced coffee, a glass of supplemented water provides the perfect beverage for him to both start and finish the day.
"I think it is great idea," he said. "There is no where else where you can do that."
Ruhf liked East 10th Street for the location of Molecule because he thought of it as an epicenter of health and well-being in the neighborhood.
"We fit right in," he said of the block, which includes a skin care store, juice bar and gyrotonics gym. "This is a conscious kind business."
In the end, the goal is to educate consumers about the importance of what comes out of their taps.
"We are trying to change the was people think about water," Ruhf said.