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Coffee with Profits & Purpose

Mini-mall altruism in Austin, TX

Guided by my GPS I pulled into a mini-mall at the corner of Riverside Dr and Congress in Austin, TX looking for a coffee shop named Dominican Joe’s.  It was listed in an on line directory.  As a collector of non-corporate coffee shops wherever I go, I have three criteria for a place to make the top tier of coolness.  Those requirements are; 1) free wi-fi, 2) local events bulletin board, & 3) good vibes for writing.  Clearly, the last is highly subjective and that’s where personal taste comes in.  For me that usually means having comfortable couches, friendly staff, relatively quiet, good windows, outside options, and at least half of the patrons working with their screens (the exception is my friend Jim who does his math calculations on paper).   At Dominican Joe’s I encountered a wild card factor that catapulted that location to the top rank:  Profit for a greater purpose.

Locals, art, & coffee, Kingman
Dominican Joe’s was founded by a young graduate of University of Texas who wanted to do something to make a difference.  While on a trip to the Dominican Republic, it hit her, buy fair trade coffee directly from the farmers and open a coffee shop in Austin with a percentage of profits going to build and operate a school in the DR.  I came upon this info in a chance conversation with the manager who was posting a flyer on the bulletin board.  I was enjoying the vibe and in spite of its location in a mini-mall, the place had a lot of soul; comfy couches, warm décor, and friendly staff.  When he told me how he came to work there and the mission of the owner, it felt like I had opened the door to a synergistic mix of community, business, and service.   It is a coffee shop with purpose and a school in Dominican Republic.

Grace, coffee, and gym: San Antonio
My office in Santa Fe

On my road trip of the Southwest, I visited or shall I say imbibed at a wide variety of locally owned coffee shops.  Most serve the crucial function of a community center.  In the historic area of Kingman, AZ Beale St Coffee also houses the local avant garde painting gallery.  While I sipped my morning joe, I was privileged to see the host of locals check in for their morning coffee and gossip.  At the Santa Fe Baking Co, a local radio program interviews individuals on their projects.  Being Santa Fe, NM with its abundance of healers, artists, etc, their ten foot long bulletin overflowed with flyers sticking out the edges.  In Truth or Consequences, NM Little Sprouts served more than double duty with an organic produce market, alternative healing products, and a deli counter.  The absolutely coolest was the Café Passe on the super hip 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ.  They function as a hang out, fine cuisine café, art gallery, and in the evening a live jazz venue.  But out of the couple dozen I opened my screen at on this trip, the only other with an overt social agenda was Grace Coffee in San Antonio.  Housed in a YMCA and owned and operated by a Christian church, it is in a beautiful bright room with jolly baristas and no tip jar.  A sign announces its mission of using profits to serve the homeless. 

You name it in Truth or Consequences
It must be obvious that I am a fan of local coffee houses.   The history of coffee houses reveals the important role they have played for a couple hundred years as community centers starting in London.  Purpose through service is what distinguished Dominican Joe’s and Grace Coffee and that is a reminder for we who have shifted out of the world of work primarily for making a living.  Numerous studies have indicated that the happiness that sustains and continues is from gratitude.  Service is an active form of expressing gratitude.  It is engaging and practical.  It gives something beyond words and money and as such it rewards the giver with the crucial sense of purpose.  It is a purpose beyond the self.  As we age many of us need to feel relevant and service is a crucial way to contribute to the world.  After all if we have achieved a comfortable maturity, we did not do it alone.  We all had assistance; from our teachers in college, encouragement from mentors, or simply the many who provide food and shelter.  None of us do it alone.  So, giving back through service can be the profound purpose that satisfies at this stage of life.  My takeaway from this odyssey of coffee shops from Venice, CA to Austin, TX:  Service is the icing on the cake of business and can be the purpose that sustains authentic happiness for reinventing Boomers.

Coming Next:  Coffee Shops #2:  Name Your Destiny


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