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Gato Diablo Specialty Coffee Roasters

If you are a coffee lover like me, nothing compares to that smell of a great cup of freshly brewed coffee. Even before the first sip kisses your lips, the aroma fills you with warmth and pleasure. Not just any coffee can give you that feeling; it must be from exceptional beans. The coffee beans used by Gato Diablo Specialty Coffee Roasters meet that criteria!

Gato Diablo was created by Cape Vincent resident, Dan Miller. Dan, and his wife, Lynn, have lived in the Cape Vincent area since 2008. Both originally from New York State, they lived in Madison, Wisconsin, for eight years where Lynn, a computer programmer, worked, while Dan stayed home with their two children. Dan’s graduate degree is in Evolution and Ecology, and had been working toward his PhD, using his education on the Tug Hill Plateau and Irondequoit Bay prior to the move to Wisconsin. In WI, he became a stay-at-home dad, and he turned his attention to building canoes!

Upon moving to the Cape Vincent area, he continued his canoe building business and became curator at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton.

Dan has always appreciated a great cup of coffee. He and Lynn love to travel and finding specialty coffee shops during their excursions was an added perk. They are also avid birders. A trip to Costa Rica in 2015 combined both passions – coffee and birding – when they paid a visit to a certain coffee plantation. It was not just any plantation. Dan had done his research and prior to their visit, emailed the plantation about their exceptional coffee beans and environmentally sustainable practices. Imagine their surprise when the plantation owner greeted them upon their arrival and spent the day showing them around and discussing the benefits of growing coffee beans under a canopy of trees; a natural habitat where sloths, bats, and birds live peacefully, keeping the pests from invading the growing plants. Dan was not only impressed with the miles of canopied coffee bean plants and protected birds, but also the work of the plantation owner to advance the livelihood and education of the migrant workers, promoting fair wages, and effective farm management.

That Costa Rica trip ignited a spark within Dan. Over the years, he had roasted his own beans, using a cast iron skillet on the stove – similar to the days of caravans and cowboys, when the cook would throw some green coffee beans into a pan over an open fire until the color of toast, before crushing and running boiling water of the grounds. Dan wanted to roast environmentally friendly SMBC Bird Friendly and Rainforest Alliance Certified Costa Rican beans to share. 

He contemplated buying a roaster for his home but considering the space it would take up on his kitchen counter, Lynn put a kibosh to that idea. Since he had worked as a curator at the museum for three and a half years and was familiar with the village, he explored renting property in Clayton, but the ambience was just not right. Then, one night, while he and Lynn were at The Cape Vincent Brewing Company, they chatted with Amanda Derouchie. She was wondering what to do with the backroom in the Cup of Joy. It was kismet!

And, in 2018, Gato Diablo Specialty Coffee Roasters was born!

The name, Gato Diablo, which translates from the Spanish to “devil cat,” and Mayan-influenced logo, is homage to the jaguar, an endangered and elusive feline predator of Central and South America.

The beans Dan roasts are certified to ensure that the coffee is shade-grown, fair-trade, organic, and grown in harmony with nature. Not all are from Costa Rica, he also roasts beans from Honduras, Guatemala, Peru, Ethiopia, and Columbia. The decaf beans come from a plantation in Mexico that uses a water process to strip the caffeine from the bean rather than a chemical process.

The pre-roasted beans are delivered in large burlap bags a few times a year to Cup of Joy. They are quite large, weighing in at 69kg (152.119lbs). The beans are quite stable and could last years before roasting. (Roasted beans have a shelf life of a month and a half.)

Dan roasts beans three to four times a week during the busy months and once a week during off-season. The technology used for roasting is a simple recipe of sight, sound, smell, and temperature. Dan recently upgraded to a larger roaster! The roaster he purchased when he opened Gato Diablo roasted one kilo (2.20462 pounds) of beans at a time, but now production has increased to three kilos at a time!

You can purchase the heavenly roasted coffee beans not just at Cup of Joy, but also at the Clayton Food Co-op and the French Towne Market. If you purchase the beans on-site at Cup of Joy, the staff will gladly grind them to your preference. They are also available online at https://gatodiablo.coffee/

Pop by Cup of Joy next time you are driving, or walking, down Broadway and step into the backroom to catch Dan delighting in roasting his distinctive certified organic coffee beans. Savor the delicious aroma that wafts and entices, maybe sample a medium or dark roast and buy a bag to take home to make yourself a great cup of coffee.

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The French Festival is Cancelled

Five words — “the French Festival is cancelled” — five simple, innocuous words strung together. However, those words struck a blow to the community, businesses, and organizations of Cape Vincent never felt.

I am a member of the French Festival Committee. The committee last met at the end of February. I remember a couple hushed remarks then about the future of the Festival in light of the news overseas of the coronavirus but we stayed positive and kept on task: mass gathering permits were acquired, fireworks contract finalized and coordinating with DHS to set off the fireworks, reviewing of half of the vendors who were already registered, bands and parade entertainment that were partially or already booked, and what contracts, permits, volunteers, vendors, organizations, and sponsors  that still need to be secured. As the head of the French Festival Sponsor Sub-Committee, I met with my team a couple times in early March, fully functioning and spearheading towards sponsorship acquisition. Then, by the third week of March, schools closed, businesses were shuttered, and New York residents were ordered to stay home.

The COVID-19 outbreak was spreading throughout the United States and Northern NY was under quarantine.

The future of the French Festival was uncertain.

As history tells it, the French heritage in the Cape Vincent area stems back to as early as 1615 when French explorers first set foot upon our shores. In 1655, the French missionary priests Father Chaumont, Father Dablon, and Father Simon LeMoyne came to the area to establish missions and homes. Between 1790s-1800s, James LeRay de Chaumont acquired many thousands of acres of land in Northern New York. Cape Vincent was named after his son, Vincent. It was LeRay’s influence that drew many French emigres and refugees of the Napoleonic regime to come and settle in Cape Vincent. Many of their descendants still live in the area. 

I was the reigning French Festival queen in 1987
Miss French Festival 1987: Kristie Stumpf

It was because of this French heritage and history that the French Festival was born! In 1968, Cape Vincent residents, June and Jack Walker, Gary, and his first wife, Jackie King, Jerry and Ida Radley, and Jessie and David Otis met to discuss how Cape Vincent could celebrate its French heritage and share that knowledge with younger generations. They partnered with the Chamber of Commerce with a budget of $300, the annual tradition got its start. 

Two months passed after our last French Festival Committee Meeting, when on May 5th the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors decided during their monthly Chamber Meeting to cancel the 52nd Annual French Festival. A sound decision for the health and well-being of the community but one surely difficult to comprehend.

For the first time in fifty-two years, Cape Vincent was not going to be hosting the Annual French Festival. A yearly summer tradition that brought together so many families and summer residents in the North Country for a weekend of French-inspired fun, entertainment, pastries, a parade, and fireworks. But even more so, it meant that local businesses and community-based organizations that benefited from the weekend would be losing revenue and donations.

Cape Vincent has had its share of hardships throughout the years: The Blizzard of 1977, the Ice Storm of 1998, and the high-water flooding in the Spring of 2019; and the community has always rallied to weather the storm. So, how are the businesses and organizations in the Cape going to cope with the loss of the French Festival?

Even before the announcement of the French Festival cancellation, local amateur photographer, Alex Davis, son of long-time resident, Barry, started collecting donations for the Food Pantry and Ambulance Fund with the #FrontDoorProject, or also known as The Front Steps Project. The Front Steps Project is a nationwide project where photographers decide what local organization will inspire their communities and then photograph a family on their front porch for a donation.

With the reliance on social media for communication during quarantine paired with a grassroots swell in supporting regional products and buying local, the handful of Cape Vincent businesses that remained open during April and May certainly felt the love of the community. As with every other disaster encountered, the community as a whole collectively picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and kept moving forward. Information about take-out, delivery, and products (maple syrup, wine, Black Angus beef) available was shared amongst residents online and folks kept those businesses busy.

How is Cape Vincent businesses and organizations going to deal with the loss of French Festival? They are going to do what they always do – persevere with the support of the community! After any disaster, the community of Cape Vincent has proven it will always rebuild. The strength of the Cape Vincent community is what makes this town remarkable.

So, we do not have French Festival this year. That is okay.

Cape Vincent will be all right.

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

“The French Festival is Cancelled” was published in the Thousand Islands Sun newspaper, as well as the Chamber newsletter.