WILLIAMSBURG — His popular local hangout may have stopped serving drinks, but Second Stop Cafe's manager still welcomes customers in the door — to buy furniture and knick-knacks.
"The cafe closed Dec. 31, and people were a little confused. They'd come in and be standing their waiting, trying to get a coffee," the manager Jack Szarapka laughed, admitting that the caffeine hub had posted no sign indicating its closure. "Now we're open until April as an antique store...we have a ton of stuff to sell."
Szarapka is helping Second Stop's owner Paul Degruccio — whose family has owned the Lorimer Street building since the 1920's — get rid of all the cafe's eclectic figurines, chairs, wall hangings and ceramics since Degruccio has sold off the property, Szarapka said.
And though the cafe was a frequently packed neighborhood mainstay, Szarapka said he and Degruccio were more than ready to relinquish the responsibility.
"It was a place where people would hang out and work on computers without having to buy anything...that's not a real coffee shop," Szarapka complained. "In a real coffee shop you want to have conversation, it's not a bunch of people staring at stupid screens."
Szarapka noted that at the 4-year-old cafe he had chosen to "plug up outlets" to prevent customers from remaining on their computers for hours, and that he had then put up "no laptop" signs — but clients would remove them.
"There were people I knew personally...and I'd say, 'did you take that sign off the table?' They'd admit that they did," Szarapka remarked. "I wanted people who didn't have laptops to have a chance at getting a seat."
Szarapka said Second Stop had received enough business, but that the decision to close was more the preference of the owner and management.
Plus, the current short term "antique store" use gives Szarapka a chance to sell former cafe items and other objects from his own collection. Current items in the store include a 1930's marching band drum, costumes worn in Atlantic City in the 1920's, a wooden high chair and vintage leather jackets.
"I'm an architect...I design mainly interiors," Szarapka said. "We're open here but very erratically...weekends and some weekdays at around 4 or 5 p.m."
Former customer Zach Hertlein, who perused Second Stop's antique collection Tuesday, said he was "sad it wasn't successful" as a cafe but was "happy at the fact it's a vintage store now."
"In my opinion they had the best coffee on the block," said Hertlein, 26.
Trey Kirchoff, the store manager at Gimme Coffee one block down Lorimer Street, said he was surprised that Second Stop had closed, but he claimed that the cafe had seemed to cater to the exact laptop crowd Szarapka lamented.
"If you have wifi and you're set up to have people hang out people are going to be on their laptops," Kirchoff said, "unless you have table service."
He said the former Second Stop clients who had ventured to Gimme this month were seeking a new spot to use their computers.
"The overflow we've gotten from them are people looking for a place to set up," he said.