By Christina Maldonado
The cool air inside Small World Coffee invites Princeton locals and visitors into a different world.
The outside walls and a small portion of the entrance is mint green, sandwiched between brown brick walls. The menu is not displayed on television screens, but rather on a black chalkboard with round letters and small doodles of coffee cups. The left side has a bulletin board with posters pinned up for various community events, while T-shirts hang on one wall. The area is filled with people sitting and holding engaged conversations.
General manager Vincent Jule, 39, first started working at the Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street in 2001. In college, Jule saw the cafe as just a “good job to pay the bills,” but it soon became a core part of his life. Jule knew the previous owners, Jessica Durrie and her husband Brant Cossaboom, so he feels committed to carry on the native atmosphere of the cafe, which opened in 1993.
Jule is invested not only with the business model of the cafe, but also the ethics. Small World tries to pay its employees well, offering a rate significantly above minimum wage, plus vacation time. The team has become invested in the lives of their customers, and a place where people routinely start their day.
Alexis Lucena, a Small World barista, sat on a small brown bench on the right side of the main Small World entrance. Lucena, who will celebrate her fourth anniversary on the job next week, describes her job as “fast-paced” and “fun.” To Lucena, Small World provides a sense of teamwork, family and community. Customers keep coming back because they’ve made memories in the cafe.
Back inside, the majority of customers are having conversations among each other, it’s thunderous from the talking. Footsteps echo through the space, baristas shout orders, customers talk over one another, and the entrance swings open and closed. Austin Hounsel, 23 and a grad student at Princeton who is originally from Texas, is sitting near the stairs with his laptop out. Hounsel said he comes to Small World “seven days a week.” He said the cafe is a cozy environment, so it’s a great place for both being with friends and getting work done.
The cafe has pictures on the wall with the caption, “small world around the world.” The exhibit shows photos of customers wearing Small World T-shirts in front of buildings and monuments all around the world. Customers who bring in a photo earn a free coffee. Yet the people in the pictures all return to this cafe in Princeton because the environment is warm and, in the words of one regular quoted on the wall, “You made me feel like I never left.”