When you ask a person where they could get a specialty crafted espresso beverage, his or her first answer will likely be, “Starbucks”. Starbucks has its place in the coffee industry–it is quick, convenient, and they are numerous throughout the United States. However, if I want to sit down and enjoy a really good latte in a comfortable environment, Starbucks is the last place that I think of. Starbucks is trendy, but that sets it apart from smaller businesses. Since it is a chain, every store has to be the same and therefore there’s nothing new or exciting about going to Starbucks. That doesn’t mean, though, that getting a cup of coffee can’t be new or exciting. We just have to look away from Starbucks…
When I was a kid, there was a coffee shop about fifteen minutes away from my house called the Front Porch. It was the best place ever. The atmosphere was very cozy. It had once been a house, I think, so the rooms were smaller than a normal coffee shop. The main room where the bar was also contained a few odd bits of furniture, plus some of the most comfortable couches ever. There was also a back room with more tables and a big bookshelf full of books and board games that were free to use. The best thing about this shop was the people. Sure, the service wasn’t speedy quick all the time, but Front Porch was where I felt at home. A bunch of my sister’s friends worked there, too, so there was always good conversation to be had. We loved Front Porch so much that my sister even had her wedding shower there. Unfortunately, The Front Porch closed its doors in 2010. No coffee shop will ever replace FroPo in my heart, and if I’m lucky, one day I or someone else might resurrect it.
After FroPo closed, I started frequenting a java and gelato shop called Aroma’s, pictured above. Aroma’s has a nice, homey atmosphere, too, with really awesome gelato and gourmet cupcakes. However, nothing quite felt like FroPo to me. Around this time was when I really started drinking coffee (caramel lattes with half the espresso, yeah, I thought I was cool!) These years were really formative in my coffee experience but I was a wanderer.
This past fall, I started school at Xavier University. On campus, we have two locations of a local business called Coffee Emporium. I go to Coffee Emporium at least five or six times a week, because the atmosphere is so awesome–students are the baristas and they’re always playing fun music, making conversation and creating awesome drinks. I put in an application as soon as I started at Xavier, because I honestly wanted to be a barista since I was a kid. I got a call from the manager to come in for an interview, and I ended up getting the job! Now, I’m training as a barista with some of the coolest people I’ve ever met, and I wouldn’t trade a second of it.
Now, why does this all matter, anyway? I’d like to think that everyone, after reading this, would trash their Starbucks gift cards and go to their nearest independent coffee shop, but that’s probably not going to happen. My main point is that, while you can get a cookie-cutter latte from Starbucks, the experience is worth so much more to go somewhere local. Plus, a lot of small coffee shops are very ethical, compared to big corporations like Starbucks. Coffee Emporium, for example, purchases all of its beans from the farmers so that they can give the farmers the best possible prices for their beans. These smaller shops are a testament to the fact that you can succeed in business and not have to short anyone the money that they deserve–Coffee Emporium has been going strong for more than 30 years and they have six locations in the city of Cincinnati, plus they treat all of their employees ethically, have awesome atmospheres in their shops, and create amazing drinks. So, next time you’re craving a bit of espresso, please patronize small businesses. You won’t know until you try!