By Cary Shuman
Joe DiMaggio had nothing on Bob Eustace of Revere. Eustace may be the real Mr. Coffee, Boston’s true authority on the subject of the world’s most famous breakfast drink.
For the past five years, Eustace has owned and operated Polcari’s Coffee, Tea, and Spices, a retail grocery shop that specializes in coffee, tea, and spices located at 105 Salem St., in the heart of Boston’s North End.
Prior to purchasing the business from Ralph Polcari in 2004, Eustace worked diligently at the store for 20 years. Eustace, who is 42, kept the name Polcari’s, a long established name and a symbol of culinary excellence in Boston.
“Mr. Polcari wanted someone to perpetuate the business, and I feel honored to do that,” said Eustace.
Eustace’s store is a coffee lover’s dream. He imports a lot of his coffees from Italy but there are plenty of domestic coffees to satisfy customer’s taste buds as well. Every day, Eustace and his cousin, Nick LaBonte, welcome a regular stable of North End residents to his store, but it is also popular among tourists worldwide who come there for a taste of Italy.
“We get people who live in the neighborhood, people who used to live in the neighborhood and moved to places like Revere, East Boston, and Medford, and then there are all the tourists who like to shop here,” said Eustace.
Eustace added while his cheeses are staples among North End residents, without a doubt, coffee is king at his shop.
“We have over 40 different coffees,” said Eustace. “We sell a lot of espresso, a lot of our signature [house] blend, which is a dark bean mixed with a light bean. That’s our No. 1 seller – Polcari’s House Blend.”
The old-time tradition is everywhere at Polcari’s, no more so that on the 100-year-old scale on which the fresh coffee beans are weighed. “The scale is inspected regularly and it has accurate weight – it’s unbelievable,” said Eustace. “We easily sell over 100 pounds of coffee a week.”
Next on customers’ list of popular items at the store are the spices. Polcari’s offers a choice of more than 100 spices, including oregano and basil.
“We let people buy quantities as small as one ounce, and they’ll buy one ounce of this and one ounce of that,” said Eustace. “And the spices are very fresh. Many of our customers love to cook at home and use our spices.”
North End restaurant owners also look to Polcari’s for their spices. “They buy spices and coffees and different grocery items that we sell,” said Eustace.
Above all, Eustace loves the neighborhood, where his store has been a fixture for years. “The people in this neighborhood are great, and they’re very loyal to our store,” said Eustace. “I love this area. My mother was born in the North End, and she moved to Dorchester; and then her family bought a home in Revere.”
Eustace remembers the joy in the neighborhood when Italy won the World Cup in soccer in 2006. “You would have thought you were in Italy,” said Eustace. “The U.S. looks like they may have a shot to win the Cup next year.”
Christian Trotta, who works at nearby Fantasy Foods and Wines, said Polcari’s has a unique place in the hearts of Boston food lovers. “Polcari’s is one of a kind, and you’ll never find a store like this anywhere else,” said Trotta, who came from Italy when he was 5 years old and lives in the North End. “From the delicious coffee beans to the people, there’s nothing like it. When you come in here, it reminds you of what the North End might have been like 60 or 70 years ago. My mother comes in here and shops.”
Although Eustace enjoys being in his store in the North End, he loves living in Revere. Eustace was born at Grover Manor Hospital in Revere and attended the Whelan and Lincoln schools. He graduated from Revere High School in 1984. Soon after high school, Eustace started working at Polcari’s.
“I’m very proud to be a citizen in Revere and I love this city,” said Eustace. “My children [Brooke and Bobby] attend school in the city. My daughter is a dancer who attends the Nicole Zervas Dance Academy. My son plays baseball and basketball, and he’s had some great coaches like Patrick Hayes and Eddie Sullivan, who are great role models.”