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Toy Gorilla Arm Comes In Handy During Pandemic To Safely Serve Coffee


So San Francisco resident Ben Ramirez has always had this dream to open a coffee shop. When the shelter-in-place order came down in California, he decided to put a plan into action with the idea of helping his community.

BEN RAMIREZ: We had a lot of neighbors who are doctors and nurses. And our neighbors who live in the same building as us were both going out and working every day. One's a pharmacist. One's a mail carrier. And our kids were asking us, why are Dave (ph) and Kelly (ph) going to work when we have to stay inside? You know, we explained to them that some people still need to work and put themselves at risk. And so we had kind of a conversation as a family to figure out what we could do for our neighbors.


Ben knew he wanted to serve coffee to his neighbors for free. But at first, he didn't know how to do that while still following social distancing guidelines.

GREENE: And that is when his 5-year-old son Luca had this stroke of inspiration.

RAMIREZ: Luca runs into his bedroom and pulls out this toy gorilla arm that his grandmother gave him for Christmas. And he said, here, Dad. Why don't you use this? You can grab onto your coffee, and it looks cool.

GREENE: Luca says this idea was just common sense.

LUCA: I knew the virus was on people's hands, so I just gave him the gorilla arm. And I knew it was going to be a smart idea, so I did it.

MARTIN: Luca has some suspicions about why his dad really wanted to start serving coffee.

LUCA: He's doing it because he really wants to meet Kelly Clarkson, and he did. And we made it to the (ph) live show.

RAMIREZ: (Laughter) That's true. We did have an interview with Kelly Clarkson (laughter) - but not why I started this.

GREENE: Definitely not the reason. Ben says he serves around 20 to 30 coffees a day, mostly to essential workers. And for him, the quality of the caffeine is really important.

RAMIREZ: In my opinion, the coffees I'm serving are some of the best in the world, from roasters that are widely considered to be some of the best in the U.S.

MARTIN: When the world's a safer and brighter place, Ben says he wants to finally get started on the cafe he's always dreamed about.

RAMIREZ: Once this kind of comes to its natural end, I'm going to start focusing on opening a real brick-and-mortar cafe. And what I really want to do, for sure, is to maintain that community aspect and be able to give back to the community in a real way.

GREENE: But for the meantime, you can still find Ben with his hairy toy gorilla arm hanging out of his kitchen window, handing out coffee to those who are doing the really important work in this moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF WILD NOTHING'S "REICHPOP") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.