Small local cafes prepare for La Colombe's big expansion—and the numbers suggest more coffee makes a better neighborhood.
Coffee shops are also a sign of American culture evolving and ridding ourselves of the basic home structure of the traditional American family. Today, those of the so-called millennial generation—especially those who live in cities—care less about the sorts of traditional race and gender roles that defined older generations. Or, sometimes, they care more about caring less about such things.
“The coffee shop is not home or the office, where roles and relationships are clearly established,” writes Lisa Waxman, a professor at Florida State University. “The coffee shop allows people to start anew or to portray themselves as someone other than who they currently are.” Waxman’s study, “The Coffee Shop: Social and Physical Factors Influencing Place Attachment,” looked at the clientele of three coffee shops and found with each business’ unique identity came a boost in its clientele’s pride—which could help explain why so many businesses offering similar products to similar customers could continue to exist, side-by-side, and even thrive. “Patrons who participated in this study felt a sense of ownership, sometimes even to the point of entitlements, in the coffee shops they frequented,” she writes. “They had strong preferences for their chosen shop, opinions on how the shop should be run, and some even walked behind the counter to serve themselves. Patrons were sometimes vocal regarding the perceived superiority of their coffee shop over others.”
As for Zito, she says her customers’ preferences for Lola Bean’s space and the shop’s relationship with its community are important over all other factors. “We know our neighbors,” she says. “We know their babies and their dogs and their careers. We’ve had people who have gotten jobs by making conversation with other customers. We have people who have started relationships, who have heard about a house that was for sale... People are coming in for an experience. And the good news is that the more places that open up that serve coffee, the more people have to look inside their own business and think what they can do different and what they can do better.”