Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha of Blank Street - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Imbibe 75 People to Watch: Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha of Blank Street

Are New York’s coffee drinkers willing to sacrifice café spaces in order to sip specialty coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts prices? Blank Street, a New York City start-up, is willing to wager so. More than willing in fact, with 25 locations already operating and a staggering plan for 100 by the end of this year (a recent $25 million funding round should help).

Founded by Vinay Menda and Issam Freiha, who met while attending college in the city, Blank Street skirts the overhead challenges faced by other coffee chains with its piecemeal approach to real estate: a collection of eggshell-blue micro-storefronts and battery-powered street carts with only enough room for a barista or two plus the equipment essentials.

Coming from a household-centric coffee culture while growing up in Beirut and London, Freiha noticed friends weighing convenience, price, and quality as factors that determined their coffee purchases. “We needed a one-stop shop: a place to get exceptional coffee at an accessible price point, crafted with speed and efficiency,” Freiha says.

While New York already has a rich culture of street cart coffee, Menda—who grew up in Dubai but whose family is from India, where street carts serve some of the best food—says he was passionate about evolving that experience by tying it into the specialty coffee boom. Blank Street’s micro-locations are outfitted with top-of-the-line Eversys machines to automate orders, while Brooklyn roaster Parlor provides the coffee. Aiming its high-speed expansion increasingly residential in 2022, Blank Street is putting all its beans into pint-size baskets.

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