Caffeine & Carburetors, the popular gathering of auto enthusiasts in downtown New Canaan and, more recently, at Waveny Park, will not be held in 2017, according to the New Canaan resident who launched the events six years ago.
Doug Zumbach, owner of the eponymous gourmet coffee shop on Pine Street where informal gatherings of fellow specialty and classic car enthusiasts in 2010 swiftly outgrew the area immediately around his business, said he and fellow founders Peter Bush and Todd Brown are “putting Caffeine & Carburetors in a pit stop” for now.
“After 24 or 25 shows over the past six years, it’s time to just revaluate the operation of it all,” Zumbach told NewCanaanite.com.
“It takes a tremendous amount of effort, time, town resources, et cetera, to put successful shows together. I have other personal and professional projects I would like to approach this year. One is going back to school. Another is doing some things with the store. Running the show—the time required to do each show does not allow me to do that, therefore I’d like to pursue these projects. That’s not to say we might have a pop-up event somewhere, somehow during the year but right now there are no scheduled events.”
The decision comes after the largest-ever Caffeine & Carburetors, which drew an estimated 1,300-plus people to Waveny in October, and calls from parks officials to track and control more closely its size. Operated smoothly and safely by trained volunteers, Caffeine & Carburetors has been held four times per year since 2014.
Launched with just 50 cars in 2010, Caffeine & Carburetors rapidly became such a big draw to Pine Street that, in April 2014, it expanded to encompass the one-way stretch of Elm Street—an evolution that seemed to benefit eateries in the business district. It became a practical challenge to hold the event there six times per year, and town officials agreed to try it out at Waveny on a trial basis six months later.
Since then Zumbach has searched for ways to leverage the popularity of Caffeine & Carburetors to benefit the wider community, such as through taking in donated items to the New Canaan Food Pantry from show-goers, donating himself to the Waveny Park Conservancy or partnering with nonprofit organizations. (He also provides liability insurance and $1,000 cleanup bond, pays for police and secures permits to sell coffee during the events.)
Zumbach said he was especially proud of the September show in downtown New Canaan—it coincided with the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attachs—“with the Fire Department participating with the flags and the engines, that was just glorious.”
“I’m so proud of the last one in Waveny, how organized it was. I thought that was a perfect show. It went off so well. I’m very, very proud of my volunteers, and Peter and Todd.”
Zumbach thanked those volunteers as well as local businesses that stepped in to sponsor the event as it grew, including Bankwell, Rand Insurance and Monticello Motor Club.
“I’d like to thank everyone in the town, the town resources, the residents, participants, everyone involved that has contributed to making Caffeine & Carburetors what it is, just such a successful event,” he said.
Not everyone cheered the rising popularity of Caffeine & Carburetors, as some neighbors and regulars in downtown New Canaan and Waveny voiced concerns about traffic and noise, as well as the park’s use. The gathering also has drawn divided support from some town bodies. For example, the Park & Recreation Commission has never unanimously approved Caffeine & Carburetors at Waveny, and locals will recall that the widely discussed 4-3 vote to approve the park debut back in 2014 led to New Canaan’s development of a town-wide policy on members of municipal boards and commissions participating in votes via telephone.
Parks officials by a 5-3 margin approved two events downtown and two at the park for 2015 and approved the same for 2016 with just one dissenting vote. During a postmortem on this year’s gatherings before the town’s legislative body in November, officials called Caffeine & Carburetors “a great event” and attraction to New Canaan while also calling for some regulation.
Zumbach said he looked forward to re-focusing some of his energies for now and left open the possibility of a return.
“I’m not going to say goodbye,” he said. “Just ‘See you down the road.’ ”