Ice machines went down. Baked goods ran out at around 4 p.m. At peak business hours, the Coffee Club was selling about one drink per minute.
The entirely student-run coffee shop opened to large and eager crowds of students on Sunday, April 14, in the Campus Club Tap Room. The shop was originally set to open on April 7, but the opening was pushed due to delays in acquiring equipment.
The shop offers a wide variety of beverages and fresh pastries from the Gingered Peach in Lawrence, N.J., sold at what founder Alex Kaplan ’21 calls “the best prices in town.” The schedule of performers included a cappella groups Shere Khan and Tigressions, and improv group Quipfire!.
“We are a student agency, run by students for students, and we employ students, serving the Princeton community,” Kaplan said. “So that’s kind of a fun, self-sufficient activity that can not only bring things to the community but can be financially sustainable and a ... feasible thing that can stay around for a while.”
The club’s various funding streams include student agencies and a branch of the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Students (ODUS), which put up some initial capital for “coffee-specific equipment.”
Kaplan said that the Club was working to pay that capital back.
Currently, the club has 34 baristas to fill a necessary 153 shifts each week, with each barista required to work three shifts and two backup shifts. It will open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Kaplan decided to start the venture upon noticing that Princeton, unlike some other institutions, did not have a student-run coffee shop.
“I thought they [student coffee shops] seemed like awesome places to hang out and be part of a community,” he said. “When I got here, I asked around about the idea, and I got a lot of kind of pushback that it wasn’t really possible at the time.”
He thus started the Coffee Club, an organization for students interested in coffee to hang out and learn about specialty coffee, among other activities.
Kaplan said the club started to write their business plan last October.
They first spread the word by reaching out through listservs and holding a week-long popup, also in Campus Club, where they had 19 baristas.
“When we originally advertised our application ... we got 73 applications, and at the end of the day, the applications were almost entirely decided by your schedule,” Kaplan said.
Events coordinator and barista Ali Skarzynski ’21 learned of barista positions at the Coffee Club through an email on the Rockefeller College listserv. Prior to the Coffee Shop, she had no previous experience working as a barista.
“Coffee’s just a really big part of my day, and so I just really jumped when I saw the experience,” she said.
She said that everyone had really high hopes for opening day, as they were all excited for the operation to come together.
“For me, I was just stressed, since I had planned the event, to make sure that everything was on time,” she said.
Skarzynski said that the Coffee Club is also planning an open mic stand-up comedy night for Saturday.
“It should just be like a really chill night,” she said. “Good laughs, good vibes, good coffee.”
Eve Cooke ’22 said that she visited the Coffee Club in part to enjoy good coffee and support some of her friends, who had spent a lot of time training as bartenders.
“There’s been a lot of love and work put into decorating and planning this event,” she said. “And so, it’s in part good coffee, but also good company and good performers.”
Megan Pai ’22, the Coffee Club’s creative director, was responsible for managing the social media and decorating the interior space. She said that while she’s only been a part of the Club for less than a month, she felt it was clear that Kaplan was the most capable person to be leading the effort.
“It’s been very cool to be a part of it, and I was very looking forward to our opening today,” she said.
Kaplan said that while the Coffee Club’s goal was to be the best place at Princeton to hang out, its real ambition was to help change Princeton’s culture to be warmer, friendlier, and kinder.
“Princeton can be a tough place to go to school,” he said. “You know, when you go to a coffee shop, you ask someone for your order, they tend to you, they help you out, and then someone hands you your cup. I think those personal interactions, just as a break in our day, form the basis of ... this Princeton community.”
“We can really start to notice each other, and talk to each other, and take a second away from p-sets and essays, to hang out, and be friends, and I think that’s really valuable,” Kaplan said.
And another important question: the quality of the coffee?
“Delicious,” Cooke said. “It’s really quite good.”