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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?

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

Communities across the country must wrestle with the question, what do cafés offer us in addition to food and drink?

Ten miles away, in the college town of Haverford, Pennsylvania, Zach Morris had a similar vision in mind when he opened Green Engine Coffee Co. in 2015. “The romantic idea of building a place for a community, that is 100% why I did it,” Morris said. “The thing that gave me goosebumps was how many people told me, ‘I’ve been coming in here for a couple of years, and I wrote my dissertation here,’ or, ‘I got my Master’s degree studying here.’”

Should Covid succeed in killing off a majority of the indie cafés, cities across the U.S. could be left with a coffee culture dictated by a group of C-suite marketing execs.

But perhaps the future for coffee isn’t so dire. Perhaps independent cafés will embrace, as Bui already has, the idea of direct trade — the purchase of beans straight from the farmer, rather than middlemen. It is an arrangement that, according to Bui, means more money for both parties. “We’re committed to working with the people that we’re used to working with,” she said. “And they are very understanding, and willing to tighten their belts as much as they can. So if this is just one year we’ll probably get through it.”

Written by

Senior Editor, GEN by Medium. Previously: Pacific Standard, Wired

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