In the heart of Lexington, Kentucky, there’s a coffee shop exactly like all the rest in town. Except that it’s not at all. Sure, it serves caffeine in a myriad of forms but immediately upon entering, you can sense something is different. There’s a warmth and a liveliness that even first-time visitors pick up on which only deepens the more frequently you go. It may be the friendly and knowledgeable staff or it may be the person singing the theme song to SpongeBob Squarepants in exchange for a free cup of coffee. The one thing that is totally clear is that A Cup of Common Wealth is on a mission that extends far beyond just serving coffee. Check out the photo essay below to learn more about what’s brewing at Lexington’s A Cup of Common Wealth.
Founded in July 2013, A Cup of Common Wealth was the brainchild of Salvador (Sal) Sanchez and Chris Ortiz, a pair of entrepreneurs and coffee enthusiasts. They set out to create a coffee shop experience based on a simple mission statement – “Embrace community. Serve others. Create culture.” Alexandra Canada, the shop’s Community Relations Coordinator, says, “Every decision we make, every step we take, every latte that we create needs to revolve around those three things.” And while Chris left the company in 2014, Sal and the team continue to pursue those principles as heartily as ever.
Alexandra describes the tone of A Cup of Common Wealth as being a huge, friendly community. In addition to providing enthusiastic and helpful service, Sal encourages employees to sit with customers during downtime, engage them, and essentially make friends. “As soon as people walk through the door, they’re part of our big ol’ coffee family,” Alexandra says. The sense of family is definitely noticeable, as during this conversation customers kept arriving who Alexandra knew and greeted by name.
Coffee culture can essentially be broken down into three waves, and A Cup of Common Wealth tries to dabble in and accommodate all of them: First wave coffee consists of simple sugar-and-cream diner coffee; second wave errs more towards the lattes and Frappuccino’s you find at chain coffee stores, and third wave consists of pour-over coffees and espresso bar-style drinks. Alex says, “We don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t find something that they like here.” Baristas are also encouraged to share information about coffee with customers but to never impose judgment on any person’s taste.
Possibly the most unique feature at A Cup of Common Wealth is its pay-it-forward system, which allows customers to purchase beverages for other patrons. You can pay the amount of a specific drink, like a small coffee, or you can pay $5 so the recipient can pick any drink. In terms of who gets the beverage, you can give it to a specific person (like one free cappuccino for Jane Smith) or to a person of a particular occupation (like a nurse, EMT, or firefighter). You can also give it to anyone who performs a task on the spot, such as doing ten pushups, giving everyone in the store a high-five, or the aforementioned SpongeBob Squarepantssing-along. Pay-it-forwards can be found written on coffee sleeves lining several walls of the shop.
While having a fixed, solid mission, the team at A Cup of Common Wealth is also open to new ideas and exploration, holding brainstorming sessions every six months to discuss ideas of new things to do with the business and potential directions for the future. With a growing community and a worthwhile mission, the future of A Cup of Common Wealth looks bright.