Relationships Are Brewing at New York's Drip Cafe ; Single Folk Migrate to This Trendy Coffeehouse to Fill the Void in Their Love Lives without Resorting to Classified Ads or Tacky Dating Services

By Shira J. Boss, | The Christian Science Monitor, September 20, 2000 | Go to article overview

Relationships Are Brewing at New York's Drip Cafe ; Single Folk Migrate to This Trendy Coffeehouse to Fill the Void in Their Love Lives without Resorting to Classified Ads or Tacky Dating Services


Shira J. Boss,, The Christian Science Monitor


Singletons, singletons everywhere, but not a date to meet.

That's how Nancy Slotnik felt not too long ago when she was swimming in the singles ocean in New York City. Convinced that there must be a better way to connect with potential suitors, Ms. Slotnik set out to build her own house of dates, Drip cafe on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Four years later, Slotnik is engaged, and 56 other couples owe their nuptials to Drip. Now Drip is percolating out to other cities.

"We consider ourselves an alternative to the typical singles bar, which is darker, louder, smokier, with a high percentage of drunk people," Slotnik says. "Especially for women but also for men, that's not an ideal situation to meet people."

At first Drip looks like a regular cafe. Or at least what passes for regular in New York: the faade is splashed with Barney purple and the inside sports a mix of retro lounge furniture and shelves featuring boxes of Pop Tarts and Cracker Jack. But the clientele within seems a bit more preoccupied than normal. Half of the guests look like they're on first dates - which they are - and the others are checking out potential dates by flipping through binders or watching who's coming through the door.

While some visitors might come just for a Cap'n Crunch milkshake and to give the room a once-over, the cafe's secret is these binders, a homemade library of one-page profiles of 30,000 singles. There are no names, no photographs - only personal specs (age, education, occupation), musings on life (ideal weekend plans and vacation spots), and a couple of graphs (self-description, what you're looking for).

It's like point-and-click dating. When you see someone who interests you, Drip does the legwork. If both parties agree, a meeting is set up at the cafe. Phone numbers and names are kept locked in Drip's database unless dates agree to give them out.

"Our motto is 'Straight to the date,' " Slotnik says. "We try to get people right to that stage of the process."

Even at Drip, getting a date is still a process. Anyone can flip through the binders, which can provide a night's entertainment in themselves. To get to the people behind the profiles, however, requires a $10 registration fee and personal bio of your own. Then Drip, at $3 per request, will let targets know they've been tapped. All that will get you to square one.

"Going to a coffeehouse feels off-beat rather than going to a formal dating service, which seems so serious," says Diana Halperin, who recently made a first outing to Drip after discovering that friends of hers had met there. "Signing up for a formal service would feel like it's a job to get a husband - that's not my priority."

That seems to be the consensus among Drip patrons. They're not so fed up as to turn to a matchmaker, but some informal structure to their dating life is a welcome change from trolling the singles scene.

"It's a numbers game," says Ed Rumph, a Long Islander who has belonged to Drip for a year and a half and been on several dates that never went beyond that first meeting. "Coming in here and finding out a little bit about people is better than trying a club or a bar."

There's quite a cross-section to choose from, but overall, Slotnik says the Drip clientele is quite educated (most seem to have or are pursuing graduate degrees), thoughtful (filling out that questionnaire requires it), and more ready for a relationship (if they weren't, who would bother with all this?).

Some singles take the process very seriously, scrutinizing the binders one by one, making a list and checking it twice. Others, like Gene Holmstead, are more casual. "I'll be in Central Park for a run, come over here, flip through the books, pick out a few profiles and request them," he says. Recently he and two of his friends who are also signed up decided to meet every Tuesday evening in the cafe.

Going through the books with a friend is a popular pastime at Drip. …

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