A Cup of Common Wealth is not your average café. A pay-it-forward wall composed of coffee sleeves offers free drinks for a medley of potential customers—an iced latte for an Alaskan traveler, a smoothie for anyone who has chemotherapy, and a drink of choice for a pilot. A mug full of change for parking meters hangs outside of the shop. If you’re having a bad day and the café finds out about it, they may very well up and deliver you a coffee.
“You walk into the shop and it’s like a different universe,” says owner and founder Salvador Sanchez. This alternate universe includes a local art program, semi-monthly coffee class sessions, a newsletter, and non-profit days, where a chosen non-profit is brought in to educate customers about what they do and take home 10 percent of the day’s sales.
A Cup of Common Wealth’s distinctive flavor begins with its four-step hiring process, one in which the café’s staff plays a decisive role: five employees are required to sign off on any new hire, and their decision is final. Once hired, the employee is guided through a 75-to-90-hour training program embracing everything from coffee education and different pours to wider business principles and the central importance of customer service.
This training gives employees the tools to participate in aspects of the business that go well beyond their work at the coffee bar. In fact, many of the café’s initiatives—acquiring a food truck and roaster, expanding into the night market, launching its featured drink, bottled cold brew, and brewshine programs—percolated up as barista initiatives.
Creating an ‘All Hands” Culture
“Coming from the corporate world, I knew how things work in corporations,” says Salvador. “But the staff sees the business in an indie style. They bring a knowledge base that I didn’t have. It’s a symbiotic relationship.”
Key staff are also involved in the planning process, including monthly P&L reviews and annual meetings covering the company’s one, three, and five-year goals. And the attention to employee wellbeing has paid off: in an industry where employee turnover is endemic, A Cup of Common Wealth has experienced remarkable staff loyalty.
“I may not be able to guarantee them the best wages, but I can guarantee the best education and culture that I’m able to provide,” says Salvador. “As a small business owner, that’s my job. That’s my legacy.