By Bill Parry
Frank “Turtle” Raffaele is on a mission. The founder and CEO of Coffeed Roasters, and his partners, are out to prove that the business model behind their Coffeed chain of coffee cafés can both make a profit and support various social missions.
“We didn’t invent the model, but it is unique,” Raffaele said. “We run our coffee shops and other venues for-profit with a charitable component. Ten percent of our coffee and beverage revenue and 5 percent of food revenue go to local charitable causes such as The New York Foundling, City Growers, Community Mainstreaming Associates and the Refugee and Immigrant Fund.”
Coffeed’s efforts don’t stop with donations.
“We started hiring a lot of New York Foundling’s kids and all of our baked goods are made by people with intellectual and development disabilities from CMA,” Raffaele said.
Coffeed opened its flagship cafe in 2012 when there was barely any retail in LIC’s Dutch Kills section.
“We were considered pioneers when we first opened, now this place is like Dubai with all these towers going up,” he said.
Coffeed has opened five more “socially conscious cafes” since with two more in the planning stage.
Raffaele is most proud of the concession they have operated at the new Hunters Point South Park since 2014.
“That park is the jewel of the waterfront,” he said. “It’s the neighborhood’s front lawn and we have to do everything we can to take care of it.”
Some 3 percent of the gross revenue at LIC Landing by Coffeed goes to the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy for the park’s upkeep.
Born and raised in Howard Beach, Raffaele attended Yale University. Upon graduating, he went to work for city Parks Commissioner Henry Stern, who gave Raffaele his “Turtle” nickname after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“I loved that job and had New York coursing through my bloodstream, but it didn’t really pay enough,” Raffaele said. “When my father died, I knew I had to get a real job and ended up trading stocks on Wall Street. When I started I didn’t even know what stocks were. I learned I was really good at math and the buzz on the street was electric.”
Then came the 2008 stock market crash.
“We were traders, guys from Queens and Brooklyn, not bankers in $2,000 suits, and suddenly we were the bad guys,” Raffaele recalled. “My wife Diane lost her job at Lehman and was booed by people on the street as she left the building with her belongings in boxes. I knew it was time to transition out and find the next chapter of my life.”
He had saved enough money and with the help of three other traders, they started Coffeed.
“I wanted to prove that traders had heart,” he said. “As quick as we’re growing we always keep that in mind. It will be fun to see where the road takes us.”