Eric LeGrand is understood for grinding.
Since the previous Rutgers soccer participant was paralyzed from the neck down throughout a recreation towards Army at Metlife in 2010, he’s develop into synonymous along with his onerous work, perseverance and cussed optimism towards all odds.
But the inspiring New Jersey native is including a extra literal that means to the phrase grind — with espresso beans.
On Saturday, the 31-year-old is opening his namesake espresso house in Woodbridge, NJ, with a “LeGrand opening” that’s been practically two years within the making.
“Coffee is something that you can bring people together with. Eighty five percent of the world drinks it,” LeGrand instructed The Post. The former defensive deal with who’s a motivational speaker, broadcaster and philanthropist behind Team LeGrand had been percolating on opening a enterprise. And throughout the divisive early days of the pandemic, his thoughts turned to the caffeinated beverage due to its unifying nature.
“The idea came at a time when the country was at each other’s throats and I was thinking how can I put my brand on something that helps people. People look to me for inspiration and motivation. And over a cup of coffee, there are so many things that happen. Good things that happen.”
But whereas the social idea of the drink resonated with him, he’d by no means truly tried the stuff. That modified in August 2020, when he took his first sip: a easy cup of sizzling black espresso.
“Tell you what, it changed my life. I said, ‘I am missing out on some good stuff.’ Ever since then, it’s been a journey,” mentioned LeGrand who now begins his day with an iced latte.
He known as the mayor of Woodbridge about his proposal, and three hours later he put LeGrand on the telephone with city’s enterprise honchos.
“We have Starbucks and Dunkin but there’s no mom and pop coffee shop in Woodbridge. The people here always supported me, so this is something I wanted to do. They put their trust in me and know when I go after something, I am really going to put my full effort into it,” mentioned LeGrand who took on an area inside a brand new residential growth on Green Street steps from the practice station.
He then employed Bellissimo espresso consultants out of Portland and immersed himself within the business and the product. Last 12 months LeGrand Coffee House launched as a web-based enterprise, promoting beans to clients in all 50 states, whereas they labored on the brick and mortar location.
LeGrand, who’s in an influence wheelchair, designed the house to accommodate others in chairs or with particular wants: The doorways are wider, the bogs are bigger and there are high-top tables clients in chairs can match beneath.
“And behind the counter, it’s big enough so I can maneuver back and forth and not bump into things,” he added. It’s additionally been wired by Google, in order that LeGrand can management the temperature, lights, music and different enterprise capabilities along with his voice.
“I wish more people would think about [accessibility]. A lot of times, it’s out of sight out of mind. When you’re living in this world every single day, it’s always on your mind. And the people who are closest to me, they always think about it. Everywhere they go they say, ‘Eric wouldn’t be able to get around here.’ I am trying to raise awareness and attention to the things that need to be talked about.”
When it opens its doorways, it would serve pastries and monkey bread from Balthazar — and in a nod to his alma mater, a specialty drink known as the Scarlett Knight which is a mocha espresso with raspberry and chocolate syrup.
“It’s been a hit so far,” he mentioned of early tastings with family and friends.
LeGrand’s framed Rutgers soccer jersey hangs on the wall outdoors of his workplace on the cafe. It was a present from head coach Greg Schiano, with whom he shares a particular bond. “Coach had it framed and everything. He said, ‘This is my gift to the shop.’”
He’s spent the final week placing the ultimate touches and turning many keen early birds away.
“People keep coming in because they think we’re open. They’re so enthusiastic. It’s really exciting and goes to show you, if you do good in the world, it will come back your way,” mentioned LeGrand, who desires to make this a New Jersey vacation spot and a possible flagship for extra places.
But past the neighborhood he’s constructing, LeGrand — who can be studying tips on how to converse Spanish — hopes his enterprise endeavor serves for example to others that something is feasible.
“I can’t even lift my hand to put a cup of coffee to my mouth, but here I am with a full business. There is no reason for me to be negative and I want to share that with other people,” he mentioned including, “Focus on the things you have, and if there is something you really want, you work your butt off to get it.”