Former Rutgers Football Star Eric LeGrand to Open Coffee Shop in Woodbridge

In 2010, LeGrand became paralyzed while making a tackle in a game. With this new endeavor, he aims to continue spreading positivity through coffee and a "daily cup of believe."

Eric LeGrand wants to serve customers a "daily cup of believe" at his coffee shop. Photo courtesy of LeGrand Coffee Shop

Ten years ago, Eric LeGrand’s life was forever changed when he experienced a life-altering spinal cord injury on the Rutgers football field. Physically, LeGrand had a lot of adjusting to do, but mentally, he has remained as positive as ever.

Over the past decade, LeGrand has used his injury as a reason to continue living life to the fullest. His newest business venture, LeGrand Coffee House, is set to open in Woodbridge this summer. The online store launched in January, and since then, business has been booming. Though LeGrand is new to the world of coffee drinking, he is no stranger to inspiring people to wake up every day with a positive mindset.

“When people drink my coffee, it’s just going to be a steady reminder of ‘look what Eric is doing,'” says LeGrand of his new business venture. “’Look how he’s pushing through. Why can’t I do that? Why can’t I go after my goals?’”

After reading Shoe Dog, the autobiography of Nike’s Phil Knight, LeGrand was inspired to take a big leap into the world of entrepreneurship. His main goal for his coffee house is to create a comfortable and accepting space for anyone who walks in the front doors.

“I want a community of all colors, all different races, sizes and disabilities,” says LeGrand. We caught up with LeGrand to talk about his journey, life experiences, and what he hopes to accomplish with his new coffee business.

Table Hopping: It’s been 10 years since your injury. What has been the most important thing you’ve learned since then?
EL: Just being able to appreciate the little things in life and enjoy the people that are around you. The opportunities that come about, don’t take them for granted because everything can be taken away from us in the snap of a finger. Live life with a purpose.

TH: Do you have a specific moment that you hold close to your heart from your injury to now?
EL: Being able to give a commencement speech at Rutgers in 2014 and getting my degree in Labor Relations. Putting that diploma up on the wall for my mom and being able to share my story with 50,000 people out there. And back in 2012, when I won the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs and got to share my story with the world. That was pretty cool.

TH: What has made you stay so positive to get you where you are today?
EL: When you see people around you that are in a similar situation as you, but they don’t have the same support that you have, it kind of puts things into perspective for you. You say, ‘I don’t have it as bad as I think and I’m blessed with what I do have.’

TH: And you’ve done so much with that positivity since your accident, including Team LeGrand.
EL: Yes, that was formed in 2013 and we partnered up with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. I truly believe in their mission, today’s care, tomorrow’s cure, to find a cure for paralysis. In the meantime, it’s just educating people about spinal cord injuries and helping with how to deal with them. I’m proud to say we’ve raised over $2 million dollars since starting.

TH: Now you’re starting a new business venture, LeGrand Coffee House. What made you want to open your own café?
EL: An opportunity presented itself in my hometown of Woodbridge this past summer, and my friends would always be sending pictures of their coffee drinks in our group chat. I was never a big coffee drinker, but why not try to create my own café vibe? I want to give people that daily cup of believe because it’s a reminder to live life to the fullest.

Photo courtesy of LeGrand Coffee House

TH: Has this idea been in the works for a while?
EL: Since [last] July, we’ve been building a team together to see how we can actually execute a game plan and business plan for this, and to launch our online store on January 12.

TH: Have you been doing well since the online launch?
EL: Oh, yeah. We’ve been trying to keep up with all the demand, which is a good problem to have, I’m learning.

TH: What kind of atmosphere do you hope to create at LeGrand Coffee House when you open the store this summer?
EL: I hope it will be a place where the community can come together over a cup of coffee, putting differences aside. Leave all your problems at the door type of thing when you come in and just enjoy yourself and take your mind away from everything.

TH: What other items will you have in store?
EL: Right now we have our single origin coffees, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Sumatra [on the site]. We will have some food choices for breakfast and lunch, but I’m looking forward to exploring all different types of coffee, flavored and all that, because it’s new to me as well. I had my first cup of coffee in August.

TH: It’s a big world out there, in terms of coffee!
EL: Yeah, I haven’t had all these different flavors and all that. I’ve been drinking regular coffee, either black or with some cream and sugar but I haven’t gotten into that pumpkin spice latte or peppermint mocha yet. I’m excited to grow our staff and tell them, ‘Hey, this is my first time trying this, so it’s your job to impress me!’

TH: What’s something you want people to know about your and your journey?
EL: I want people to know about my legacy, as the guy that never gave up who was dealt the cards he was dealt and made the best out of it. No matter the situation, I am genuinely happy, and what you see is what you get with me. I wake up with a smile on my face every morning and I’m just so thankful for the people that I have around me and the continued support I receive on a daily basis.

LeGrand Coffee House is set to open in late summer in Woodbridge. The online store is now open, where you can purchase LeGrand Coffee House gear and freshly roasted coffee (Guatemala, Costa Rica and Sumatra flavors). Check out LeGrand’s personal website to shop his merchandise and read more about his story.

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