Member of Adelphi University’s 10 Under 10
Co-owner of Sip This.
Stephanie Pontillo ’08 always knew that something was missing in her hometown of Valley Stream.
“My friends and I were never really bar people; we spent most of our time in places like coffee shops,” she said. “We talked about how Valley Stream could really use a nice coffee shop and we dreamed about opening our own one day that the whole community could enjoy.” It was only a dream until one fateful car ride to upstate New York.
It was January 2010. Pontillo and her longtime friend, and fellow Valley Stream native, David Sabatino were driving upstate to visit a friend. They were having the same conversation they had many times before. Pontillo had graduated from Adelphi a year and a half earlier with her bachelor’s degree in economics and a minor in business. She was working at the time as an insurance underwriter. Although she was happy to be employed at a time when jobs were scarce, she longed for a more fulfilling career. Finally, Sabatino said to Pontillo, “Why don’t we just do it?” With those words, Sip This was born.
After months of brainstorming and researching village codes, Pontillo and Sabatino began to scout locations. They knew where they wanted to open their coffee shop; Rockaway Avenue, the “downtown” of Valley Stream.
“We passed by this one spot on Rockaway Avenue a bunch of times,” said Pontillo. “It was the place where Slipped Disc used to be.” Slipped Disc Records was one of Long Island’s longest running record stores before it closed in 2007. “But, we just thought of that location as Slipped Disc,” Pontillo said. “We didn’t really consider it at first. When we finally got in there though and checked it out, we knew that it was perfect for us.” In December 2010, they signed the lease.
Pontillo and Sabatino spent the next eight months filling out applications, consulting with architects and working on the construction of the coffee shop. “We always left the door open while we were doing work,” said Pontillo. “People would wander in a lot and we would chat with them.” Leaving the door open to members of the community has become a hallmark of Sip This.
In August 2011, Sip This opened for business and began serving delightful coffee drinks and tasty treats to the Valley Stream community. Over the past few years, the menu has grown along with Sip This’ reputation in the neighborhood. “We didn’t know much about making coffee at first. We had a connection with a coffee house upstate. They trained us for free and helped us find suppliers,” Pontillo said. “We recently got an oven and started making baked goods too.”
Pontillo and Sabatino named their coffee shop Sip This to pay homage to the location’s previous incarnation. Framed memorabilia from the record store and t-shirts designed by Slipped Disc’s former owner hang on several walls in the coffee shop.
Sip This also plays host to many popular events. “We host poetry readings, trivia nights, comedy nights, magic shows,” Pontillo said. “We host open mic nights which are great because these talented kids come here and play and they cheer each other on.” The walls of Sip This are also adorned with the works of local artists. Every month a new artist is featured. “It’s hard for artists on Long Island to find a place to display their work, so we feature some of their pieces here and hold a reception for them to show their fantastic art,” said Pontillo.
Furthermore, Sip This become a gathering place for business associates, book clubs and many other groups. “We never made an announcement or anything saying that people could meet here. People just started coming, and we thought that was great,” Pontillo said. “Anytime we can find a new group to get involved with, we do it now.”
Pontillo attributes much of her success to the education she received at Adelphi. “As owner you are everything. You’re a marketing specialist, manager, accountant, etc. Every day I use something I learned at Adelphi,” she said. “I didn’t realize the things I knew until I saw that other people didn’t know some things; things that seemed like second nature to me. You don’t realize how valuable your education is until you have to use it.”