Bringing It

W ith foot traffic dried up, local businesses are increasingly willing to meet customers more than halfway. 

The Jitter Bus, a “mobile cafe” run by Dan Barletta and Paul Crosby, will come to you, selling coffee (ground or whole bean, in a few roasts) for $19 a pound with free delivery, alongside a healthy selection of tea blends. “Normally we’re open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Hillhouse and Grove,” Barletta says by phone after depositing a delicious medium roast from Burundi at my doorstep. But with Yale closed and social distancing orders in place, the Bus’s normal service of caffeinated concoctions, with volume rivaling any brick-and-mortar coffee shop in town, has ground to a halt and forced an adjustment.

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“It’s definitely been pretty weird,” Barletta says. “We’re not making drinks at the moment. We’re just making deliveries of coffee and tea. While it’s not ideal, we’re able to do okay. This is a way to keep us working, and we still have bills to pay.” A simple online ad campaign has brought in some orders, which can be made via email (jitterbuscoffee@gmail.com) or direct messaging on Facebook or Instagram, and though it’s “hard to tell if we have new customers, since we leave the coffee on the doorstep,” it seems like receipts are strong enough—and costs reduced enough—to keep the books balanced and the Bus moving.

If you want a good book to go with your good coffee, People Get Ready aims to deliver. Located at 119 Whalley Avenue, PGR is a cross between a community reading room and an independent bookstore, according to Lauren Anderson, who manages the project along with Delores Williams. Specializing in culturally affirming books by “authors of color, Indigenous authors, LGBTQ+ authors, bi/multilingual authors, local authors, and poets of all kinds,” as the website puts it, PGR has responded to the pandemic by unveiling an online store, with orders delivered free by bike.

“It seemed like it was a great way to get books to people in an environmentally friendly way—from carbon footprint to packaging,” Anderson says. “We deliver with minimal to no packaging. There’s so much less waste.” And then, of course, there’s the bookspace’s prime directive. “Books have always been things that we’ve turned to in hard times, so there’s a lot of real gratitude and depth in thinking that if we helped bring you or a child a book that lifted spirits, then we feel fortunate to be able to do that.”

A homecooked meal is also good at lifting spirits—and for that, you need groceries. As Instacart, a Silicon Valley-based remote grocery shopping service, reports weeks-long wait times, a more homegrown alternative is emerging that might also cost you less. Edge of the Woods, an independent, vegetarian “natural market” at 379 Whalley Avenue, now offers $10 flat fee delivery (or $15 for more distant addresses). Customers email eotwmdeliveries@gmail.com following these guidelines; then, two to seven days later, the market calls for payment info and to give a delivery window.

Justin Dodge, who co-owns Edge of the Woods as part of the Dodge family, had been thinking about implementing delivery for over a year, but COVID-19 pushed it over the top. “About a year ago we thought it might be useful to have a delivery person, so it was in the back of my mind… Then there was this extra demand for it, where people were afraid to come out of their houses.” Dodge notes that delivering also lowers physical traffic, which is safer, and says it’s been gratifying to support the community’s needs and be supported in turn. Right now, he says, the time between ordering and delivery averages three to four days, but it’s really contingent on volume. “Some days we just get a lot of emails, and that slows things down.”

For meals you don’t have to cook, there’s a healthy swath of restaurants offering delivery via Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash or similar programs, a simmering trend brought to a boil by the pandemic. Even the venerable Sally’s Apizza is now using these services, marking its first offering of delivery in the 82 years since it was founded.

Meanwhile, some restaurants are hoofing it themselves. One of them is downtown’s Sherkaan, located at 65 Broadway, which has rehired some furloughed front-of-house staff to deliver from both the kitchen and, more recently, the bar. Alcoholic offerings include beer, wine and “cocktail kits,” featuring ingredients and whole bottles of liquor to provide ample libations for dinner and beyond.

Roger Gross, bar curator at Sherkaan, says the effort has been rewarding so far. “[It] allows us to employ more people to help pack and deliver food,” which “help[s] the community as well,” adding that there’s something special about doing it themselves. “We love having a personal touch. We’re Sherkaan and we’re personally bringing you food.”

Written by Allison Hadley. Images 1-2 photographed by Dan Mims. Image 3 photographed by Daniel Shkolnik. Image 4 photographed by Cara McDonough.

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