For nearly 10 years, George Russo has gotten up early. Very early.
He leaves Stamford for the Green’s Farms railroad station, arriving at 4:15 a.m. He spends an hour brewing coffee, sorting newspapers, and preparing for the 9 morning trains.
The first one comes at 5:16. A couple of dozen commuters board, well-caffeinated and ready for the morning ride.
George loves his job, and his customers. But next Friday (April 26) marks his last day of work.
The town will renovate the Green’s Farms station. George’s lease was up, and put out to bid.
New terms included a 150% increase in rent. He’d have to buy a parking sticker, too.
Despite 180 signatures on a customer-inspired petition, the lease went to a new company called Steam Cafe. They’ll also operate the coffee stand at the eastbound Saugatuck train station.
“It will be sad,” says George. “I don’t want to leave.”
He’s an early-morning guy. When the rush is over, at 9 a.m., he leaves.
“I’ve made lots of good friends here,” he says. Customers routinely invite him to play golf at their country clubs, or offer tickets to Yankees and Giants games.
The economics of the coffee concession business are changing, though. When he started, George sold 300 papers a day. Now he’s down to 80.
“Everyone reads the paper on their iPhone or iPad,” he says. If they don’t stop in for a paper, they may not buy coffee either.
George plans to take a few months off, then look for something else to do.
Of course, he’d love to keep doing what he’s done for 10 years.
“I used to do construction,” he says. “But I’m almost 60. I can’t climb ladders like I used to.”