MAYWOOD, N.J. — Six coffee cups and several food wrappers are cluttered in the center of a table at Stray Cat Brew in Maywood where four teenagers are sitting.
They've been at the West Pleasant Avenue shop since school let out two hours ago, and don't plan on going home for another few, they said.
"My mom calls me and asks when I'm coming home," said Gabby, 13. "I'm like, 'Uh, never.'"
She says Stray Cat Brew is a "chill" environment with few rules, and owner Michael Zier is "super nice."
And if it weren't for him, she'd still be "chilling" at Subway next door.
Zier was working as an employee under the former owners of Moon Doggie when he first considered claiming the place as his own. So when the 11-year owners and coffee connoisseurs stepped down, it only seemed natural for Teaneck's Zier to step up.
"I'm concentrating on making it more of a cafe experience," Zier said.
He has less of a focus on coffee roasting, and since there isn't as much equipment, there's more space.
The menu is packed with several varieties of specialty drinks.
"They had one frozen hot chocolate. I have seven," Zier said. "They had two hot chocolates. I have eight."
But Zier is still in touch with the former owners, who are still supplying the shop with coffee.
The longer hours also help bring in crowds, Zier said. He stays open until 8 p.m. instead of closing at 4 p.m.
"People are being reintroduced," he said. "Some stay and some don't."
Zier has lost some of the older crowd but has brought in a newer one.
His background in customer service is prolific. At 18, Zier was working 40-hour weeks split between an ice cream shop and a McDonald's, where he was a crew trainer.
He's worked for three different Dunkin' Donuts owners, dealing with people before they've had their first cup of coffee, he said.
Taking over for Moon Doggies wasn't in the plan for Zier, but he's glad to be where he is.
"Even though I didn't grow up in Maywood, I have family that did," said the Upstate New York native. "I like to be a part of the local Maywood family."
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