By Margaret Fuller Hayden
Jul. 12, 2017: The time when locals probably most resemble animals stalking prey in the wild is when they’re cautiously coasting along Pondfield in their cars, spasmodically turning their heads to the side as they comb the street for an available parking space, or at least a parked car with its reverse lights on.
In a pedestrian-friendly village, the compact size of Bronxville, open parking spaces during business hours can be few and far between. However, one benefit of summer is the reduced hassle of finding a space in which to park. In fact, the sudden abundance of those empty parking spaces can throw us off a bit initially; readily available prey takes the game out of hunting.
Is it mid-summer already? Take a stroll in Bronxville and you’ll probably be reminded of the season upon certain observations:
Middle and high schoolers are not infiltrating the village in chatty and exuberant packs during lunchtime hours;
The sunny side of the street is noticeably emptier than the shady side, especially if it’s hit ninety degrees; and
A sparser number of pedestrians are about, and they have abandoned their usual brisk strut for the more sluggish summer shuffle.
There is an almost disconcerting quiet in the air, but upon entering stores where the cash registers are dinging, the AC is humming, and the ice is in abundant supply, you rediscover the lifeblood of the community.
One spot that’s become an iconic community hangout is Slave to the Grind, a coffee shop opened by Carol Marshall and her husband, Andy, in July of 1993. Carol said that spring and fall are the busiest seasons, but summer ushers in a “celebratory mood” from the clientele, since “we’re all so happy it’s summer!” The most popular beverages in the hot weather are the flavored iced coffees, which range from coconut cream (the favorite) to banana cream pie. Whether customers are congregating on and around the bench in front or opting instead for the quintessential coffee shop ambiance, Carol stressed the importance of its being “a community place, everyone’s place.” (Speaking of which, a noticeably absent contingent in the summer: Sarah Lawrence College students.) As for the unusual--turned terribly familiar--name? She attributes “Slave to the Grind” to the following organic train of thought: “I was thinking of coffee and people’s passion for it--then coffee grinds--and if you’re a slave to something, you’re addicted to it.”
Some might recall that the space Slave to the Grind now occupies used to be a Baskin Robbins; for a long time now, the only ice cream shop in town has been Häagen-Dazs®, which first opened in Bronxville in 1983. One noteworthy development of its sleek, recently renovated design is the new placement of the ice cream: out of sight behind the counter. Although this fundamentally changes the ice cream selection experience, perhaps that old-time ritual of preening at the different tubs of flavors is being reconsidered in the interest of more streamlined service, and there’s no longer the need to wipe little smudge marks off any glass. The manager mentioned that the busiest time is always the weekend and that the most popular ice cream flavor has been Cookies & Cream for as long as he can remember. “When school is in session, the kids are going to come,” he said. As for when school is not in session? He skirted the question a bit, saying instead that business “depends on the weather.”
In the hotter climate, there might be fewer people walking about town and parking can seem like a “gimme,” but wherever the iced coffee or ice cream is, parched consumers are never far, eagerly seeking shelter from the elements and something refreshing to quench their thirst. The summer of 2017 is no exception.
Photo by A. Warner