- Ana Obradovic, AIT
Track 5: Union County’s Favorite Cup ‘O Joe
Editor's Note: This is not a promotion for one establishment. The Campus Chronicle encourages future coverage of many local businesses.
Located across from the Cranford clock tower, Track 5 is a cozy coffee shop that runs deep in Cranford’s history. It was founded almost 30 years ago by owner Kevin Brennan and was originally named Cafe Rock. Cafe Rock neighbored Eastmas News (aka the penny shop), and its walls featured vintage records, guitars, and rock memorabilia. The cafe was then renamed Rockn’ Joe and expanded to a small franchise of cafes throughout the area. In 2016, Brennan sold the Rockn’ Joe franchise and kept the Cranford location to himself, renaming it Track 5, on account of its close proximity to Cranford Train station.
Up until this point, the coffee shop was well-loved by locals but had still not achieved the extraordinary recognition that it now has. The pivotal moment for Track 5 was, funnily enough, the COVID-19 pandemic. While this was a detrimental time for most local businesses, owner Kevin Brennan decided to grow from the situation. He took time in the beginning of the pandemic to create an easy-to-use website for contactless pickup. This system, accompanied by the comfortable outdoor seating at Track 5, allowed the business to flourish at the most unlikely of moments. A warm and reliable cup of coffee felt extra comforting in the uncertain climate of the pandemic. Now that the pandemic has subsided and customers are able to return to the cozy atmosphere of the cafe, Track 5 still maintains the contactless pickup system that led to so much of its success. Customers who are in a rush are able to order drinks ahead of time and pick them up from the online-pickup shelf next to the register.
A wonderful symbolism for the centrality of Track 5 to Cranford’s culture is the bulletin board, located above the milk and creamer station. The Bulletin Board Guidelines, stapled in the center of the board, state that anyone may post flyers and that each post will be kept up for one week before being removed. On any given day, the board features flyers for used book sales, dog walker information, business cards for local shops, and announcements for local events such as trivia night or the Opening Gala for Cranford High School Performing Arts. Locals can also find community service opportunities in the area advertised here. The Board also has a calendar created by Cranford Downtown that shows a list of local events going on in the area for young families. A personal favorite find is information regarding local concerts and occasional concert tickets. Just last week I found tickets to a Led Zeppelin Tribute concert in Starland Ballroom, a local and well loved concert venue. It's safe to say that the board features something for everyone, whether you're a bookworm, parent of young kids, trivia lover, or a concert obsessed teenager.
What really makes Track 5 the heart of Cranford is that it unites all sorts of people over a simple concept: good coffee. On weekdays, the coffee shop is filled with commuters stopping for a quick pick-me-up before they head to the train station, students studying for exams or chatting with friends, and people with remote jobs, joining meetings and working on laptops. On weekends, families, dog owners, friends, and lovers wait in the line that wraps around the outside of the shop. Strangers discuss local events, their favorite coffee orders, and recent sporting events. Even if you come into Track 5 feeling under the weather, you are sure to leave feeling uplifted by the ambiance and intoxicating smell of freshly ground coffee.
As I write this article, I am sitting at the bar area, facing the windows that overlook the center of Cranford. Outside it is rainy and cold, but with a cinnamon bun foam latte in hand and Jimi Hendrix playing over the speakers, I can’t help but feel the warmth of the community around me. At the tables behind me, tutoring sessions, job interviews, and conversations are in progress, and the space is full with the buzz of happily caffeinated people. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you give this Cranford gem a visit.
Lissner, C. (2020, February 23). Coffee Shop in Cranford makes restaurant list. Cranford, NJ Patch. Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://patch.com/new-jersey/cranford/coffee-shop-near-cranford-westfield-makes-restaurant-list
Track5coffee.square.site. (n.d.). Retrieved November 11, 2022, from https://track5coffee.square.site/