Lady Smarts: How to Open an Independent Coffee Shop

Written by Meredith Russo on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


This year I am thankful for my full-bodied, dark and hot… coffee.

Moreover, I am thankful to live in a city that indulges independent coffee shops in all their idiosyncrasies. So that I might find comfort in knowing I will start each day, subtly branded coffee cup in hand, feeling good about what I’m drinking, if slightly worse about myself. So that I might wonder if the gravity-defying beanies that ride so low on baristas’ heads are supported by bobby pins, if guys are now wearing bobby pins, and if with my single origin drip Guatemala Maya Ixil and coffee cardamom bundt cake, I am somehow encouraging this.

I sure hope so. And if anyone ever hands me a duffel bag full of cash to invest in a business venture all my own, I know what I’ll do.

How to open an independent coffee shop:

  1. When it comes to designing your logo, less is more.
  2. See if you can draw a coffee cup using only two lines. Are you opening in Brooklyn? Try it with one.
  3. The logo should be clear and full of reflection, like glass. Seriously, sometimes simply a big, unmarked window will do. Just make sure passersby can see plenty of birch and steel inside.
  4. Having a bike rack outside should be a no brainer. But make it a confusingly conceptual one. You should need an engineering degree to get your bike in there.
  5. Require that all baristas exhibit two out of three for tattoos, facial hair, and/or beanies. Bonus points if it’s a tattoo of your logo. Extra bonus points if it’s a tattoo of the logo tattooed on a bearded, beanie-wearing barista.
  6. Your baked goods should be baked fresh daily, but you should also try making them square. Cookies, bars, and muffins with a slightly squared edge scream PORTLAND. SEATTLE. DETROIT.
  7. Speckle them with unexpected herbs and spices. Make sure to qualify all those “ordinary” exotic herbs like Spanish saffron and black cardamom.
  8. There should be Pink Himalayan sea salt on everything.
  9. If there isn’t Pink Himalayan sea salt on it, there should be bee pollen. Dust, don’t sprinkle.
  10. Make your own “Middle America” desserts, but make them so no one in “Middle America” would ever touch them. A Tahitian vanilla Twinkie with rose-scented buttercream? How pretentiously unpretentious!
  11. Since they’re organic and baked-to-order, you should charge $8 per Twinkie.
  12. Offer a curated list of non-coffee beverages as well.
  13. Include one – and only one – juice from a local orchard or farm. Bonus points if it’s something people don’t usually drink. Like cherry juice.
  14. Include a brand of bottled water no one has ever heard of. It should be Italian. “Oh that sounds familiar?” But it’s not.
  15. Alternatively, you may install a complementary tap, offering still, sparkling, or room-temperature water. This will make customers feel grateful and valued, even if you do charge extra per drink to finance it.
  16. Your milk should come from an obscure farm upstate. Extra points if it’s in a glass bottle.
  17. If you’re confident enough – or enjoy upsetting picky girls – offer only whole milk. And almond milk. You know, just to show you can.
  18. You should only have two options for sugar: raw sugar or simple syrup. Ring the fire alarm if anyone so much as mentions Splenda.
  19. Sell Mast Brothers chocolate.
  20. Don’t try and get creative here. Like any expressionist painter must first master the classics, you must display Mast Brothers before you can proceed to other more unusual expressions, like “siphon” coffee, or a Japanese ice brew.
  21. Use to-go lids so thin and compostable that they do, in fact, compost a little in your mouth with every sip.
  22. Teach your staff to practice conditioning behavior. Reward customers who order properly and know their beans. Withhold smiles and friendly conversation from those who ask for flavored syrups. Slap them if they order anything “Skinny.”

 

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