The Jitter Bus, a mobile coffee shop that sells sustainably sourced coffee, joined the growing number of on-campus food trucks last Monday. It is the first business of its kind in the Elm City.
Owned and operated by co-founders Dan Barletta, Andrew Mesiouris and Paul Crosby, The Jitter Bus settled on College Street opposite William L. Harkness Hall for a few days last week. The Jitter Bus endeavors to offer the highest possible quality of coffee at low prices and sustains this business model by taking advantage of the low overhead costs of operating a vehicle-based company, Mesiouris said. Although The Jitter Bus has only recently begun serving customers, the coffee truck has been in the works since last March, when the co-founders raised $5,260 to finance the bus’s launch during a monthlong Kickstarter campaign.
“We are three guys who just had an idea,” Barletta said. “It started as a silly idea … but it slowly became something. I am really proud of the work we’ve done.”
Barletta, Mesiouris and Crosby sell coffee out of a renovated bus, adorned with Christmas lights, a chalkboard menu and a sound system blasting the owners’ favorite songs. Mesiouris said his trio designed the plumbing system and constructed the bus’s cabinets while working other jobs. He added that his longtime friends-turned-business partners foster a sense of community with customers inspired by their own camaraderie. All customers are invited inside the bus to chat while the owners make their drinks.
Mesiouris said the traveling storefront prides itself on its ethical business practices. All of The Jitter Bus’s coffee beans are organic, Fair Trade and sourced from local roasters including Connecticut companies Happiness Lab, Giv Coffee and Saccuzzo Coffee. Mesiouris said The Jitter Bus has developed a close relationship with Saccuzzo Coffee and has been urging the company to adopt more transparent methods of sourcing and engage in more small-batch roasting.
“We want hardworking families in impoverished areas to get money,” Mesiouris said. “That is probably one of the biggest things that separates us from other cafes downtown. [Ethical sourcing] really matters to us.”
Mesiouris said it is often difficult to know exactly where coffee is sourced and if a fair cut of the profit is given to farmers. He explained that at the end of a growing season, several farmers mix their crops at wet mills, complicating the specific source of the blend.
But Mesiouris noted that the three roasts The Jitter Bus has been brewing since its opening can be traced directly back to the farmers who grew the beans. Mesiouris said he is assured the cut of the profit his farmers receive — which peaks at 53 percent — is fair.
“I loved the location of the bus and the comparable pricing, as well,” Sabrina Rostkowski ’19 said. “The Jitter Bus let me satisfy my coffee addiction without going out of my way or breaking the bank.”
Despite its preliminary successes, The Jitter Bus was evicted from its temporary home near WLH on Cross Campus last week for violating a vendor ordinance that prohibits vendors from sales in residential zones. Much of campus, including College and York streets, is marked as a residential zone.
Mesiouris said potential changes to food vendor ordinances were set to be discussed at a Monday City Hall meeting. He said changes to the current zone divisions, the creation of four vending zones in New Haven and a potential tax that would raise annual food truck fees from $200 to $5,100 featured among the meeting’s agenda items.
Barletta said The Jitter Bus would be forced to consider leaving New Haven if the projected changes to food vendor ordinances are made. He said being restricted to a vending zone, which he likened to a food truck park, would “destroy the aesthetic” of The Jitter Bus, transforming it from a mobile coffee shop to an attraction.
As of Feb. 8, a live poll run by the New Haven Independent estimates that 70 percent of New Haven residents do not support the raise in annual food truck vendor fees.