Ever notice bumper stickers emblazoned with black birds while cruising the Garden State Parkway?
That’s a Rook Coffee fan showing some love for the Monmouth County roaster. It’s a Jersey thing, but more importantly, a Jersey Shore thing.
“Some of our customers say if someone cuts them off on the Parkway, but they have a Rook sticker on their car, it’s all good,” jokes Marc Hindman, Rook’s director of brand strategy.
Rook Coffee—an item on NJM’s Jersey Shore bucket list—began in 2010 when two high school friends quit their jobs to open a local coffee shop. Holly Migliaccio and Shawn Kingsley ran their 300-square-foot shop together in Oakhurst, where Kingsley did all the brewing and roasting.
Hindman started at Rook in 2016 after being a fan of the brand for years. The Monmouth County native and Rutgers graduate says it “just makes sense” that he ended up at Rook.
Today, Rook has its own roasting facility in Long Branch to supply its 11 retail locations. And you don’t even have to be in Jersey to get a taste of this Shore town staple: The coffee company ships all over the country.
A hot-coffee drinker at heart, Hindman says he “feels like the minority at this point,” referring to Rook fans’ love for cold brew, which became available to ship in 2019.
New Jersey Monthly caught up with Hindman to chat about the business, his favorite Rook coffee flavors and how he feels the brand fits into Jersey Shore culture.
What has it been like to see Rook grow?
Marc Hindman: We’ve done e-commerce since before I started in 2016, but in 2019 we began exploring the idea of shipping our cold brews. During Covid, we all worked together to make local deliveries. We had baristas packing orders and just wanted to get the coffee to our Rook fans. We made an app during that time and an overwhelming majority of people have used it since. It’s been really cool to see the business grow in new ways.
How do you think Rook fits in with Jersey Shore culture?
When the business first started, a lot of the word spread from word of mouth. It was so specific to Jersey, but more specifically to Monmouth County. People are proud of that. New Jerseyans are uniquely proud of where they’re from.
Rook is always creating fun flavors, like the recent Italian Cookie Cold Brew. What goes into that creative process?
Inspiration can come from anywhere! Our head of production, Alex, started as a barista with us years ago, so he has really worked his way through the company and really understands coffee. He will keep things in his pocket until the moment is right. Then we try it and it blows everyone’s minds. Cinnamon vanilla and mocha mint are some great flavors that sell year after year.
Any flavors that weren’t a hit with Rook fans?
We tried an orange-vanilla flavor a few years ago. I think it was too far out there at the time, but I think now we are in a place where our customers trust us enough to try something new!
The Wall location reopened last month. Can you tell us about the renovations?
The store was about eight years old. Some of our stores weren’t built out expecting the level of business they got, and as the Wall location became a hub for other surrounding towns, like Belmar, it [became] in need of renovations. We made some more space for the team, improved the flow of traffic in-store and just freshened things up for our customers!
Any new flavors coming to Rook this year?
We are debuting a new flavor no one has ever seen before at the end of March! A couple of those are happening between now and the summer.
What do you love about being a part of the Rook team?
It’s going to sound cliché, but it’s really the people. They are the reason I started working here. New Jersey is just one of those intangible things, and being part of this business is something I’m proud of.