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San Francisco man serves coffee for free from kitchen window: 'We're happy to help people'

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What does an aspiring barista in San Francisco with a perfectly placed kitchen window do during quarantine? Why, serve coffee to his neighbors on the street with a gorilla arm, of course.

Ben Ramirez, a designer who hopes one day to open his own coffee shop, wanted to help out his beloved North Beach neighborhood by opening up his kitchen window — which is roughly 6 feet off the ground — and serving coffee to friends and neighbors who pass by, all for free.

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“We’ve been [in] lockdown for a month here, but my upstairs neighbors are a postal worker and a pharmacist — two essential workers,” Ramirez told Fox News. “They were kind of the impetus for me wanting to do something for those still out there working and risking their lives and keeping us all going.”

Coffee, which has become a passion for Ramirez, was the way he knew to give back.

“I’ve been wanting to open a café and a roasting company, and I’ve been going to coffee school,” said Ramirez, who has been in the tech industry for the last decade. “Wanted a change of pace, something I can dig into and get my hands dirty.”

So he took his love of the craft and, with the help of a sandwich board he ordered off of Amazon, he set up his family’s “coffee shop,” which is open seven days a week from around 8 a.m. until noon.

“I had some extra coffee equipment laying around, and I bought some beans and filters,” he said. He also was able to invest in more beans with the help of donations on Venmo.

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Each cup is made to order, so “it takes a bit,” Ramirez said, but people are “happy to chat” with either him, his wife (if she’s at the window), or his two sons, Luca, 5, and Juno, 2.

“It’s nice to just be a bigger part of the community that way. Give them a little smile. Hopefully, that helps a little bit,” he said. “Luca and Juno are super excited to hang out the window and help people. It’s like a little family business.”

“We’re in such a fortunate position in that my wife and I can work from home,” he added. “We’re happy to help people out.”

His neighborhood in North Beach, known in particular for its coffee scene, has given him a warm reception since the opening on April 4.

“I wasn’t expecting much, but the response has been very positive. People have been excited to come by and chat. Especially since all the cafes around here are closed.”

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On a busy day, Ramirez said they serve anywhere from 20 to 30 cups, while on slower days, he usually does about 10.

On a busy day, Ramirez said they serve anywhere from 20 to 30 cups, while on slower days, he usually does about 10. (Ben Ramirez)

“My wife and I have lived on this street for almost 20 years. Moved in 2001,” he added. “I’m actually meeting neighbors that I’ve never met. So, it’s been good to connect with some of those people.”

On a busy day, Ramirez said they serve anywhere from 20 to 30 cups, while on slower days, he usually does about 10.

“There’s a food bank that opens every Thursday at the middle school across the street, and we give away a lot of coffee to people volunteering there. We also get a lot of people from the Trader Joe’s nearby,” he said.

But just because they’re getting to know their neighbors, it doesn’t mean the pair are breaking any social distancing rules — Ramirez uses a trusty (and strong) gorilla arm toy borrowed from his son to hand the coffee down to those on the street.

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“Everybody does a pretty good job staying away,” he said.

And maybe this side project will evolve into a business in the not-too-distant future.

“I would love to open a coffee shop in the neighborhood,” he said. “If we’re ever able to go outside again, yeah, that’s the goal.”