WOODBRIDGE – Eric LeGrand is a busy guy. After sustaining a spinal cord injury while playing football for Rutgers University in 2010, he became a motivational speaker, philanthropist, sports analyst and author.
COVID put a halt to that work in March 2020, but it wasn’t long before LeGrand continued his calling.
“During the pandemic, all of my public appearances stopped and the world was at each other’s throats,” LeGrand said. “People look to me for inspiration and motivation, so I was wondering how I could bring people together. I thought, ‘What do people want and what do people need?’ “
The answer was simple: a hot cup of coffee.
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In July 2020, he began developing the idea for a coffee shop, but came across delays due to the supply chain, construction and inflation. But at 11 am. on Saturday, May 14, the LeGrand Coffee House will finally open in Woodbridge.
The cafe, located next to the Woodbridge Train Station at 10 Green St. at the corner of Rahway Avenue, is part of the new Avenue and Green development, a mixed-use facility with 232 apartments and 12,000 square feet of retail space.
“Some people give up, but we stayed the course, and here we are,” LeGrand said. “I’m so thankful for everything that I have, and I want to be able to share that with people on a daily basis.”
LeGrand’s positive attitude is reflected in the 1,900-square-foot shop’s modern-rustic design. A neon sign reads “a daily cup of bELieve” (highlighting his initials).
Other motivational signs line the walls. The house roast, a medium to dark mix of Guatemalan and Brazilian beans, is called the Believe Blend. It has notes of dark chocolate and grapefruit, LeGrand said.
“So many people drink coffee and they want to sit down and chitchat about coffee,” he continued. “It brings a community together. It’s something that people truly enjoy, and with my brand, if I could put some motivation behind it… I want to make people feel good and satisfied.”
Five other roasts — Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Guatemala and Sumatra – are also available at the shop, as are specialty drinks like lattes and cappuccinos, and espresso, decaffeinated coffee and teas. Traditional baked goods and other food items are also on the menu.
“Woodbridge has supported me from the time I was born here,” LeGrand said. “This is my hometown, so I’m glad to be able to bring this to the community.”
During football season, two televisions will broadcast Rutgers football games. LeGrand’s Rutgers jersey also hangs on the wall of the shop.
In the evenings, LeGrand Coffee House, which has a capacity of 40, will be transformed into a space for gatherings, such as book clubs and open mic events.
All of this from a man who had his first sip of coffee in August 2020.
“People need coffee to wake up and get going, but I wake up fired up,” LeGrand said. “I never needed it, but now I drink it because I find joy in it.”
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LeGrand has a cup of Joe after he finishes prepping for the day with his nurses, he said. Usually, he drinks it black, but these days, he’s mixing it up.
“Now, I’m trying all of these different options,” LeGrand said. “I’m going to be drinking too much of my own product, probably.”
Go: 10 Green St., Woodbridge; legrandcoffeehouse.com
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her stories about food, drink and fun, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: [email protected] or @JIntersimone.