Tag Archives: Small World

Small World forges community around coffee

By Ronell Austin Jr.

Detroit, MI

On the outside of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street in Princeton, mint green paint creates a safe haven for customers. Inside, between walls of red brick and shiny wood, calming music plays while patrons sip coffee, eat cookies, and type away on their computers. Despite its status as one of Princeton’s most popular coffee shops, Small World feels like less of a business and more like a community. 

That’s exactly what founders Brant Cosaboom and Jessica Durrie intended when they started the cafe, which has two locations in Princeton, general manager Vincent Jule said. On a bulletin board inside the shop, employees post photos of people wearing Small World Coffee merchandise at places around the world, like the Eiffel Tower. 

That sense of community is cultivated by Small World’s employees. Jule, 39, started working at Small World in early 2001 when his friends helped him get a job. He has worked at the coffee shop because he feels welcome, and he likes how the business runs. Jule, who even met his wife at Small World, appreciates how Princeton embraces its local coffee shop. “The pride of feeling like you’re a part of something is something that has been a part of Small World from the beginning,” he said. 

Another employee, 34-year-old Alexis Lucena, feels a sense of belonging at Small World. “[It’s] really fun because it’s fast-paced,” she said. “It’s about team and family, and being a part of tradition.”

Though there is a Starbucks nearby, Jule believes people choose his cafe because of the community’s support for smaller businesses. “There’s a loyalty there,” he said. “They’re welcomed and appreciated.”  

Even the ordering process at Small World is done in a more traditional way. At big chain coffee shops, employees often type orders into a computer. But at Small World, employees still talk directly to each other. When customers order at the register, the cashier calls it out to a barista nearby. 

But Small World also stands out for its signature product: coffee. The cafe uses Arabica and Robusta beans sourced from all over the world. Small World also offers a variety of food options, including sandwiches, vegan cookies, and gluten-free desserts. Management tries to avoid copying the competition. “We don’t necessarily respond to trends because the philosophy of the coffee is what’s important,” Jule said. “It’s better to perfect what works instead of expanding on new trends.”

Customers appreciate the sense of connectedness they feel at Small World. Rick Flagg, 56, from Princeton, said the cafe offers a “great environment.” The shop’s charm also draws customers from beyond Princeton. Visiting from Washington, D.C., Patrick Caldwell, 32, chose to have his coffee at Small World over other options. The atmosphere at a place like Starbucks, he believes, is generic—especially compared to the “positive energy” of a safe haven like Small World.

“People are mirrors,” Jule said. “What you put out to people are what you are going to get back.” 

The intimacy of Small World

By Adilene Sandoval 

Mattawa, WA

The story begins with two people living in different parts of the world, who shared a desire to create a small place that brought their community together. Jessica Durrie grew up in Rome, Sao Paulo, and Melbourne. Brant Cossaboom spent his youth in Spain and Korea. After meeting while working at an espresso shop in Ann Arbor, Mich., the two strangers fell in love and moved to Princeton. There, they opened their very own cafe near campus, which they named Small World.

People often say “it’s a small world” when describing an unexpected encounter, or when they find something that connects them to other people. Small World Coffee has both. Inside the cafe on Witherspoon Street, conversations blend in with the calm soothing music, while orders are taken. On one wall, the phrase “Small World Around The World” is encircled by photos from people wearing cafe T-shirts in various exotic destinations. When a customer walked in on a Monday afternoon, general manager Vincent Jule greeted her by saying, “Hey, it’s you again.” 

The cafe is well known for its philosophy, which spreads in a simple, genuine form—through its own customers—attracting people from all over the world. “Making people feel good, that’s advertising for us,’’ Jule said, in reference to the shop’s advertising tactics. “It’s a welcoming environment for everyone.” People enter to pause their busy lives and enjoy one of life’s simple things—coffee. 

The look of the cafe has changed since it was founded in 1993, but Jule said Small World’s philosophy has stayed the same: First, provide people with a cup of coffee. Then, influence their lives. He encourages his employees to be genuine with customers, project positive vibes, and remember the regulars’ names—and their orders. According Alexis Lucena, who has worked at Small World for the past four years, the job is all about starting peoples’ days off right. “We have more in common than we think,” Lucena said.

“It makes me the happiest when people who have moved away come back,” Jule said. He explained that people are drawn back not only by coffee, but also because Small World remembers them, and people like being remembered. Today, Small World stands as a reminder that it is indeed a small world after all. 

Small World wins fans with each sip

By Christina Maldonado

Gallup, NM

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.”