Coffee Shops Are On the Brink Of Losing Their Place In American Culture

Who’s going to want to spend the day holding meetings and typing inside a coffee shop now?

Max Ufberg
GEN
Published in
10 min readJul 1, 2020

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Photos: filipphoto, pjohnson1, Martin Barraud, Eric Anthony Johnson/Getty Images

There was a time, not too very long ago, when a place like Ox Coffee, a small café in Philadelphia’s Queen Village neighborhood, wouldn’t have been the object of nostalgia. In those days, Ox Coffee was just somewhere to go if you wanted to read a book, catch up with a friend, or maybe see some live jazz. “We wanted it to be a social environment,” Ox’s co-owner, Will Gross, recalled of the seven-year-old café. “It started having almost a Cheers dynamic, where we became very close with our customer base.”

But life is not a sitcom. Thanks to the coronavirus, Ox Coffee — like all the other cafés in Philadelphia, along with cafés in dozens of other states — remains closed for sit-down customers. Ox only opened up for take-out a little more than two weeks ago, as Gross had been reluctant to put his staff and customers’ health at risk. During the nearly three months the space was shuttered, Ox sold its coffee beans to grocers and restaurants, as well as directly to customers through an online store. But that didn’t come anywhere near covering the loss of the café space income, which Gross estimates had been about $1,000 per day before the pandemic hit…

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Max Ufberg
GEN
Writer for

Writer and editor. Previously at Medium, Pacific Standard, Wired