Russo's Greens Farms C&P coffee concession is closing this week because Russo has lost out to another bidder, Steam. In a request-for-proposals issued in December, town officials asked for bids of at least $500 monthly for a Greens Farms coffee concession. Russo bid $300, which he said is an "affordable" offer. He currently pays $200 per month to rent his concession.
"It's bittersweet," he said Tuesday of his closing. "I'm going to miss everybody. I would love to come back. And the people want me back."
Greens Farms C&P has operated on a month-to-month basis at the station since 2006, according to Deputy Police Chief Foti Koskinas, who is also the town's director of railroad operations. Koskinas has described Greens Farms C&P's current rent as "below market rate."
Steam also submitted the winning bid to run a coffee concession at the Saugatuck station.
Koskinas said he expects Steam to open its Greens Farms concession between June 1 and 15. In the meantime, the stationhouse will be renovated. The Saugatuck depot was refurbished last year.
"The appearance is going to reflect the station's historic value," Koskinas said. "It's going to be cleaned up, and they'll be putting in wood floors. It's going to mimic the other station, in a good way. There will be a lot of updates."
As part of the overhaul, new heating and cooling systems have recently been installed at the Greens Farms depot, according to Koskinas.
The demise of Russo's concession has not been well received by many Greens Farms commuters. More than 170 people signed a petition last year urging the Board of Selectmen to approve a new contract for Russo. While that initiative did not succeed, a number of commuters interviewed Tuesday morning at the Greens Farms station reiterated their support for Russo.
"He's a very good man," said Mel Katz. "It was an unwise decision, and this will only end up costing us more money."
Russo has worked at the Greens Farms coffee concession since 2003. He took over the operation in September after his former boss decided he no longer wanted to manage it.
Greens Farms C&P is the sole concession at the depot. It operates Monday through Friday from 5 to 9 a.m. The concession draws about 120 customers per day, according to Russo.
Steam will operate, at a minimum, Monday through Friday from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Saugatuck and Monday through Friday from 5:30 to 10 a.m. at Greens Farms, according to the RFP. Steam's hours at Greens Farms could be extended to 11 a.m. or noon, according to Koskinas.
Russo added that he has not decided his next career move.
"We're going to miss George," said commuter Jennifer Marotta. "He's so kind, and he provides such a great business. It's a sin that he's closing."
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