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$25-a-Month Coffee Club Offers Unlimited Joe at Village Cafe

By Andrea Swalec | October 2, 2012 7:14am

GREENWICH VILLAGE — If $25 for unlimited coffee each month sounds too good to be true, you haven't been to Fair Folks Cafe.

The new space, which opened Friday in a sunny storefront at 96 W. Houston Street, is one part furniture store and art gallery, one part community space and one part bargain-basement cafe where members pay $25 per month for unlimited coffee, tea and espresso drinks. 

The cafe was created to expand upon both the ordinary art gallery and the standard coffee shop, co-owner Anthony Mazzei said. 

"In a typical art gallery, no one speaks to you," he explained. "And in a [typical] coffee shop you plug in and tune out. Here we want people to engage with each other." 

Anyone can walk in for a cup of joe at Fair Folks, but customers who sign up for $25-per-month memberships will get unlimited refills of Crop to Cup coffee, co-owner Victor Jeffreys II said.

More than 100 people have already signed up to be Fair Folks members in its first four days open, Mazzei noted. Membership will be limited, he said, but he declined to provide the cutoff number.

"We're interested in creating community," he said. 

Members will be invited to art openings, jewelry shows and other "happenings" at the space, which will offer whimsical icebreakers to try to get people to connect with each other — like asking every attendee to be photographed with whomever RSVP'd right after them. 

"The point is to have a memory, a new souvenir, a new connection. For people in New York, that's an exciting thing," said Mazzei, a 31-year-old Upper East Side resident whose wife, Aurora, is also a co-owner. 

The store hopes to make most of its cash on people purchasing its unique artwork — including furniture, paintings, sculpture and merchandise — all of which is on display inside the cafe.

There are a set of poured latex paintings by Leah Durner (price available upon request), a long wooden communal table that can be yours for $5,200, and jewelry displayed in cases in the front window from $50 to $280.

"It's like a magazine you walk through rather than read," Mazzei said, "and you get a new issue every month."

An antique white loveseat, which is available for customers to sit on while they sip, goes for $1,800.

Mazzei said he would be heartbroken if a clumsy customer spilled espresso on any of the furniture, but that creating a homey environment is worth the risk.

"That's what separates us from other companies," he said. "Things here are here to be used."

Member Blake Fortson, a 26-year-old urban design student, said he signed up at Fair Folks to be part of a new community, as well as cut back on his coffee spending. The Bedford-Stuyvesant resident estimated he shells out $80 per month on the lattes he buys five days a week. 

"This is a nice place to get stuff done," he said, "and the membership fee is nothing compared to what you'd spent on coffee anyway."

Fair Folks Cafe, located at 96 W. Houston St. near LaGuardia Place, will be open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.