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San Francisco's Andytown coffee shop forced to close

NI man's San Francisco firm was going extra mile for hero medics... but now it's been forced to close

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Michael, Lauren and their son Oisin

Michael, Lauren and their son Oisin

Michael, Lauren and their son Oisin

A COFFEE company in San Francisco named Andytown by its west Belfast exile founder has been forced to close by the coronavirus crisis only weeks after it was praised for helping frontline hospital workers tackling the pandemic.

The Andytown Coffee Roasters chain set up by ex-musician Michael McCrory shut its cafes late last month (July) after a former employee was tested positive for Covid-19 but there are hopes that as no other workers have shown symptoms of the virus the outlets could re-open soon.

Michael's American wife Lauren Crabbe who set up Andytown with him said "If a few days of closure mean that we can be assured that our team and customers are safe then it's a very small price to pay."

At the height of the pandemic the award-winning Andytown firm which started roasting its speciality coffee in 2014 was applauded after the owners pioneered a scheme to encourage customers to assist them in supporting what they called the health 'heroes'

The clientele made financial donations so that Michael, Lauren and their staff could start delivering coffee and treats to hospital staff who weren't able to take a break away from their punishing schedules.

Andytown whose logo is a copy of the Andersonstown Leisure Centre's 'A' symbol has been a massive success expanding to four cafes and one private outlet in a commercial firm.

But the lockdown announced by the city's Mayor London Breed on March 16 impacted badly on the Andytown business which had to be scaled back with the shutting down of two cafes.

But thanks to the supplying of coffee, pastries, granola bars and juice to hospital staff Michael and Lauren were able to provide a boost not only for the workers but also for their own chances of survival.

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Staff at Zuckerberg hospital San Francisco.

Staff at Zuckerberg hospital San Francisco.

Staff at Zuckerberg hospital San Francisco.

"We decided to open up on our website the ability for customers to buy as little as one cup of coffee, to contribute to a large donation for a hospital. That's how it started and people really liked the idea," she said.

Within days of launching the initiative, people had handed over $20,000, leaving Michael and Lauren stunned.

Donations had soared to $20,000 dollars within days.

Lauren's husband Michael who lived at various times in his youth in Lenadoon, Poleglass and Shaw's Road moved to the States in 1997 after studying at the University of Ulster in Coleraine and after working in bars in New York he went to San Diego where he met his future wife in 2008 when they were both employed as baristas in a café.

"We always wanted to own our place," says Lauren, who studied journalism at university.

But not having any loans from the banks, she and Michael launched a crowd-funding appeal to raise the money to open their first café.

Much of Andytown's offerings were influenced by Michael's background and their espresso blend is named Short Strand, a nod to where his grandmother lived in Belfast. The Andytown mission statement at the outset said a visit to their cafes was 'like a visit to your Irish grandmother's kitchen' and it flagged up its Northern Ireland inspired menu including soda farls, wheaten bread, scones and home-made jams. Its soda bread was voted number 41 in a poll of San Francisco's top 100 foodstuffs.

A while back Lauren said Andytown was roasting 1200lbs of coffee per year on its premises and some of its blends and merchandise have recently appeared on the menu of the popular Established coffee shop in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

A SAN Francisco coffee company owned by a man from west Belfast has been forced to close by the coronavirus crisis just weeks after it was praised for helping frontline workers tackling the pandemic.

Andytown Coffee Roasters, named after the area where co-founder and former musician Michael McCrory grew up, was forced to shut its cafes last month after a former employee tested positive for Covid-19.

With no other workers showing signs of the virus, however, hopes are growing that the company will be able to get back to business in the near future.

Michael's American wife Lauren Crabbe, who launched the company with him, said closing was a necessary step.

"If a few days of closure mean that we can be assured that our team and customers are safe, it's a very small price to pay," she added.

The award-winning firm was applauded at the height of the pandemic after it pioneered a scheme to encourage customers to support medics risking their lives to save people battling coronavirus.

Their clientele made financial donations so that Michael, Lauren and their staff could start delivering coffee and treats to brave hospital staff unable to take a break from their punishing schedules.

Since launching in 2014, Andytown Coffee Roasters - the logo of which is based on Andersonstown Leisure Centre's 'A' symbol - has gone from strength to strength, expanding to four cafes and a private outlet in a commercial firm.

But lockdown, announced by San Francisco mayor London Breed on March 16, hit the business hard, with two cafes having to be shut down and staff hours scaled back.

Rather than hunkering down and waiting for the pandemic to pass, Michael and Lauren started supplying coffee, pastries, granola bars and juice to hospital staff.

"We decided to open up on our website the ability for customers to buy as little as one cup of coffee to contribute to a large donation for a hospital," she said.

"That's how it started and people really liked the idea."

Within days of launching the initiative, customers had handed over $20,000, leaving the company founders stunned.

Michael, who at various points in his youth lived in Lenadoon, Poleglass and on Shaw's Road, moved to the States in 1997 after studying at the University of Ulster in Coleraine.

After working in bars in New York, he went to San Diego, where he met his future wife in 2008 when they were both employed as baristas in a cafe.

"We always wanted to own our place," said Lauren, who studied journalism at university.

Rather than go down the traditional route of borrowing from a bank, the couple launched a crowd-funding appeal to raise the money to open their first business.

Many of the products sold by the company are influenced by Michael's background. Their espresso blend, for example, is named Short Strand, a nod to where his grandmother lived.

It also sells soda bread, soda farls, wheaten bread, scones and homemade jams.

The company's mission statement says that a trip to one of its cafes should be "like a visit to your Irish grandmother's kitchen".

Lauren said on social media that the business roasted a huge 1,200 pounds of coffee each and every year.

A number of its blends recently appeared on the menu at the Established coffee shop in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

Belfast Telegraph