Nikkita Sampson and Shivam Kumar at Break Coffee Shop in downtown Lewiston on April 14. The newly-opened restaurant has a limited menu during the coronavirus pandemic. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — Back in high school, Shivam Kumar and Nikkita Sampson were begrudging teammates at The Green Ladle. Sometimes very begrudging.

“To plot twist the story, we actually hated each other,” said Kumar, 21.

Flash-forward four years. They’re dating, they’re business partners and they’ve opened a bakery downtown during a pandemic. Break Coffee Shop is already having 200-doughnut days.

“She would always want to take control, and that would always be the case, but we still managed to work it out,” teased Kumar. “Not to say that’s not the case now, but we still work it out.”

The couple both graduated from Edward Little High School in 2016 after spending junior and senior years in The Green Ladle culinary arts program.

Chef Dan Caron, who runs the program, is Sampson’s uncle. He was a mentor then and is now, she said. “He’s given us a lot of good pointers along the way.”

Kumar and Sampson started talking about opening an eatery together last fall. They were Break regulars, when the shop was located at Auburn’s Engine House. After then-owner Sadie Blais announced she had to close quickly for health reasons and hoped to sell the coffee shop, everything quickly fell into place.

Coffee drinks and bakery items are being offered from a limited menu during the coronavirus pandemic at Break Coffee Shop. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

They nearly relocated in Auburn until discovering that the building at 50 Lisbon St. had sold. The couple reached out, asked if the new owner wanted a tenant, and everything was set.

Until the pandemic broke out.

Sampson, 22, said they debated delaying the opening until stay-at-home orders were lifted around COVID-19 and life started returning to normal.

“We just kept going back and forth, literally one day we were both like, ‘Let’s just do it,'” she said.

They opened April 14 with a small menu that stars Break’s classic vegan doughnut recipe along with muffins, brownies and comfort food sandwiches like grilled cheese and chicken salad and, new this week, grilled peanut butter fluff.

“The doughnuts and the coffee have been selling the most, like off the charts,” Sampson said. “Every single day we’re making so many doughnuts. Some days we sell about 200, some days we sell 100.”

Customers call or text in orders. They’re also able to help one person at a time in the eatery.

For now, it’s cash only — they haven’t been able to get someone in to set up the register yet.

Break is just the two of them, so far.  She left her job at a local hospital patient in-take to work at the shop full time. He’s general manager of his family’s restaurant, Mother India, and leaves when Break closes to work there.

Mornings start around 4:30 a.m. in the kitchen and doors are open from 7 a.m. to noon Tuesday through Saturday.

They’ll likely expand the hours and menu as time goes on.

“I am going to be baking a lot of new vegan and gluten-free items to offer just because that’s in really high demand right now,” Sampson said.

Break Coffee Shop opened at 50 Lisbon St. where the former Heirloom Arrangements was located. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

They’ve decorated the interior of Break with a barn door and rustic countertop, going for a rustic industrial feel. Eventually, there will be seating for 25 to 30 people, several small tables and two comfortable couches for lounging.

“We really wanted it to be a spot where people who are really busy everyday, working on Lisbon Street or in Lewiston-Auburn in general, could grab their lunch and their coffee in the morning,” Sampson said. “We also were hoping for people who have a little bit more downtime to sit and have a safe space to relax.”

They’re looking forward to having seating outdoors, being part of the Art Walk and potentially hosting some nighttime events.

As for that old high school rivalry?

“We both have a pretty competitive style,” said Sampson. “I’m honestly really proud of how we’re both handling it as a couple, because we haven’t allowed it to create friction or anything.”


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