Café offers coffee, liberally

A new coffee shop on Wall Street is taking the stereotype of the progressive espresso drinker to a new level — “I’m a latte sipping liberal,” read a button on the general manager’s chest.

Blue State Coffee opened across from Silliman College at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Co-owned by Saybrook sophomore Andrew Ruben ’11 and his father, Marshall Ruben, the shop boasts seating for 50 customers and supports “progressive causes,” as its Web site says. At its opening, customer reactions were largely positive, though a local coffee shop manager has voiced concern.

Blue State Coffee opened yesterday on Wall Street across from Silliman. Students, who praised the café’s ethical practices, thronged to investigate.
Jeanne Snow
Blue State Coffee opened yesterday on Wall Street across from Silliman. Students, who praised the café’s ethical practices, thronged to investigate.

One of the shop’s main draws, the 12 people interviewed said, is its pledge to donate 5 percent of its sales to charity.

River Clegg ’11 said, “I’m more likely to support businesses that act ethically.”

After each purchase, customers receive a token that allows them to vote for one of four causes the store is supporting. The current causes are Dwight Hall, a center for community service; Cityseed, which advocates agricultural sustainability; Shelter Now, which aids the homeless; and LEAP, Leadership Education and Athletics in Partnership. The store distributes its donations proportionately to the number of votes.

“We try to be Democratic with a big D and a little D,” Andrew Ruben ’11 said.

Throughout the day, customer response was largely positive. Melina Shannon-DiPietro, director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project and instructor of the Jonathan Edwards college seminar “Farming and Eating in the United States,” said she liked the store so much that she was planning to hold her office hours there this semester.

Ashwini Vasanthakumar LAW ’11, a Publick Cup regular, heard about the new store through an e-mail message from the Law School’s “Wall,” its online student forum.

“It’s nice because it doesn’t feel like it’s an extension of the Law School,” she said, comparing it to the Publick Cup. “I’m curious how someone from a red state would feel about it.”

Indeed, even the conservative Tory Party of the Yale Political Union is considering having its traditional Friday lunches at the new coffee shop after being displaced by the closure of Mory’s.

“The way I see it, charity is charity. I know they give a cut to the DNC, but charity in itself, I don’t think can be hugely liberal or conservative,” said Tory Party member Riley Ford ’11.

But not all customers were happy with the store’s layout. Silliman College student Pete Croughan ’12 said he did not like the “mass-produced” atmosphere of the store.

“I’ll probably still go there to grab a cup of coffee,” he said, “but I can’t see myself spending five hours studying there.”

Croughan also said he liked the atmosphere of the Publick Cup.

Comments like that are good news for the Publick Cup and other competitors in New Haven. Darice Grass, general manager of the Publick Cup, is both nervous and optimistic about what the entry of Blue State Coffee will bring to the New Haven market.

“For the past couple of years, we have really focused on what we can do to be more sustainable,” she said in a telephone interview. “Blue State, obviously, is a company with the capital to do that in a way which is really inspiring. For better or worse, it’s good to have that kind of competition, because it pushes you to be better.”

With the opening of Blue State Coffee, there are approximately 20 coffee shops in the city of New Haven.

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