Kevin Bradford is a seventh-grade math teacher in Westchester County at Isaac E. Young Middle School in New Rochelle. With stay-at-home-orders, his commute from Manhattan has certainly gotten easier, but he can’t say the same about remote learning (and he’s been in education for 26 years). “The students, they are constantly forgetting the password,” he said.
But as a dedicated partner of and beer curator for Harlem Hops, a craft beer bar in central Harlem, he still gets to leave his home on evenings and weekends. Since the pandemic, Mr. Bradford has gone from welcoming customers to his bar to bringing the bar to his customers. He makes as many as 20 craft beer deliveries a day in a 20-block radius. “I am getting my exercise biking throughout Harlem,” he said.
Mr. Bradford, 50, lives in Washington Heights with his wife, Felicia Bradford, 48, and their two sons, Mackie, 15 and Hunter, 12.
BEER IN THE MORNING Sunday is the day I let my hair down. I mean, I don’t have any hair, but you know the saying. I don’t wake up until 10 a.m. when my iPhone alarm goes off. I have to wake up because that is when the beer lists come out. The breweries send out a list of what they are selling, and some of the popular kegs can sell out in 20 minutes if you aren’t on it.
LOOSEN UP I wake up my sons, and we do martial arts stretches. It’s a combination of wrist stretches, ankle stretches, splits, different stances like horse stance and bow stance; it’s all things to loosen your body. We also do push-ups and bicycle situps.
JAZZ AND BISCUITS My parents are from Kentucky and Tennessee. Growing up, my dad would make home fries and homemade biscuits, and now my youngest son likes to make them. We have jazz playing. We have a bunch of albums or we will listen to 88.3, the jazz station from Newark.
FUEL-EFFICIENT My home is heated with oil, so I make my own fuel. I go to different bodegas, and I take the oil waste that they have from frying food. Then I filter out the food particles and mix the oil with my home heating fuel. That way I cut my bill in half. On Sundays I am in the cellar doing all the blending, and I make enough oil to last about a week. It’s about 20 to 30 gallons depending on the time of year.
WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT Harlem Hops opens at 2, and I arrive an hour early to set up. I get my mask and my gloves ready. I map out all the deliveries using Google Maps or Waze. The people who are ordering beer, they are buying maybe a six-pack and two crowlers, so it isn’t like they want five cases. We are a bar that has been converted into a beer store, so we offer mix and match. You can buy a little of everything, and our customers like that. We have a lot of repeating customers. They will call twice a week for a delivery.
THE DELIVERIES If it’s a nice day I have fewer deliveries because people walk to us to pick up their beer. But on a bad-weather day it’s 10, 15, or 20 deliveries. I put all the beer in my backpack. Because of safety issues I keep six feet away when doing deliveries, but I try to make a little small talk. It’s pretty much, “Hey, thank you for supporting us.” I always tell them we are still here because of you.
BASIC STUFF Sometimes I will fix dinner, sometimes it is my wife or my youngest son. These guys love basic stuff like tacos, hamburgers, spaghetti. The other day my wife made homemade chicken noodle soup in the pressure cooker. It was done in 15 minutes.
THE OTHER GIG After dinner I check my email to see what students have emailed me. A lot of it is stuff like, “I forgot how to get into the class,” stuff that’s like, “Are you kidding me?” When it’s questions like how to do a particular problem, I will set up a time when we can meet virtually. I’m teaching pre-Algebra so it’s equations, proportions.
ABSENTEE STUDENTS If a kid doesn’t show up for class, I call the parents. You can only do so much. I called one home, the parent was like, “I’ll have him call you right back, he’s in the shower.” I never got a call. I called a couple of hours later, and she hung up on me.
FAMILY ISSUES These students, they are all living different lives, and you don’t know what is going on at home. One mom is a health care worker, and she is never home. We have another student where the mom never says no, which is a whole different issue. It’s hard because we’re dealing with 90 kids.
SILVER LINING Before coronavirus, I would have to be up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a bus to work, so I would be in bed at 10. Now I don’t have to do that, so I can stay up late at night and watch TV with my wife. I now sleep in until 8, and I haven’t lost the feeling of, “Wow, this is really great.”