Sitting in one of the suave, new-age cafés of Chelsea, sipping the seventh coffee shared among them, three Princetonians came one step closer to visualizing their ideal café. Senior Lachie Kermode, junior Michelle Goldman, and sophomore Cecily Polonsky have a dream to start a coffee shop, a dream they fueled with the caffeine of a day-long inspirational tour of the cafés of New York City.
The trio leaves Princeton at 5:40AM
Their idea began when they discovered that all three of them harbored a fantasy of owning a coffee shop. In an effort to bolster this vision, the trio set off for New York City, looking for inspiration. Leaving Princeton at 5:40 AM and sipping coffee well into the afternoon, they judged the cafés on the criteria of ambiance, clientele, homeliness, aesthetics, among a host of other more obscure factors—including how each tries to “mask its capitalistic function,” and “caters to an idea of what a coffee shop is.” At the end of the day, jittery from over a dozen coffees, they settled on their two favorites: Devocion and Atlas Café.
Michelle said that their vision has shifted over time, but that they’re comfortable with how it has started to take shape. “A big part of this too is the deinstitutionalization of education,” said Michelle. “We’ve been thinking a lot about how to make this coffee shop into a productive, interactive, and intellectual space.”
They even have a name for their future café: “PKG”, an acronym of their last names. Cecily said they also hope to take this venture abroad over the upcoming summer, looking for inspiration as they consider how their own coffee shop will look. “We decided to take that philosophy of the New York tour, but take it to a European city—Oxford—where we ultimately want our coffee shop to be,” said Cecily, noting that the trio intends to seek funding from the university for their summer plan.
But their passion extends beyond these aspirations. While on their New York coffee tour, they thought of an idea for a podcast in which they “get coffee with frat bros.” “We thought, wouldn’t it be fun to bring people along,” recalls Michelle. Cecily explained that they considered many ideas, including “Ziti with Zete” and “Saké with SAE,” but settled on “Coffee with Chi Phi” in the end. Michelle added that “another mission was to humanize these frat boys.” Lachie said he expects that the podcast will be successful, noting that “there’s a lot of hype for the first episode.” Although the production remains in the early stages, they already have a demo of “the opening jingle” of the podcast, sung by Lachie himself.
*As to remain unbiased, the author did not consume any caffeine in the production of this article.