Ethics, Politics & Economics major Duncan Goodall ’95 abandoned corporate America in 2001 to buy the coffee shop he studied in as an undergraduate — Koffee on Audobon.
Goodall said he had planned to use his Yale education to join a consulting firm and enter “big corporate America” — and never thought he would end up the owner of a coffee house.
After graduating in 1995, Goodall said he began his seven-year career as a consultant for global marketing research firm AC Nielson. In 1998, his job led him and his wife, Melissa Goodall, to Buenos Aires where he worked as a consultant for a make-up and household products corporation, his wife Melissa said.
But Goodall had never learned Spanish, the national language of Argentina.
Under the combined pressure of the language barrier and the challenge of a 14-hour workday, Goodall quickly lost interest in a corporate environment, Melissa said. Around the same time the couple decided to return to the United States, Melissa received a job offer from Yale.
Not long after returning to New Haven, Goodall stepped into his old favorite Audobon coffee shop for the first time in years and decided it was time to achieve his lifelong goal of owning his own business.
“I went downstairs to find the owner and made him an offer he couldn’t refuse,” Goodall said.
“LIKE YOUR LIVING ROOM”
Since taking over Koffee in 2001, Goodall said he has tried to maintain the coffee shop’s “original feel.”
“In many ways I don’t feel like an owner as much as a care-taker,” Goodall said.
He added that he selects staff members who are eager to embrace the shop’s communal vibe and are “a little bit fun and sassy.”
“I try to make this like your dining room or your living room– a comfortable, non-corporate place,” Goodall said, gesturing towards the motley assortment of couches arranged around large tables.
Despite Koffee’s great success — Goodall said the shop has many regular customers and profits are no longer decreasing because of the recession — he has no plans to expand his business.
He once owned two other coffee locations, but later closed them in 2008 because he was spending too much time in the office, he said.
“I was simply working too much and didn’t know many of the customers,” he said. “[I] wanted to get back to the roots — to have just a single coffee house to my sink teeth into.”
A robbery in the fall of 2009 forced Goodall to raise security measures at Koffee, he said.
A thief walked up to the register and demanded that the barista give him the contents. Leaving all witnesses uninjured, the robber escaped with the money, Goodall said.
Though he felt the need to increase security for the safety of his employees and customers, Goodall said that it is “kind of like if you drive a car long enough– you’re going to have an accident.”
Though the general atmosphere remains similar to the Koffee Goodall visited in 1992, the menu now includes several vegetarian and vegan snack and lunch items, like Melissa Goodall’s gluten-free brownies, Melissa said.
Because they are environmentally wary, Koffee also practices composting, she added.
Koffee began catering in 2003 in response to customers’ demands, and now the University is one of Goodall’s biggest clients. The business provides basic breakfast, lunch and snack items and now caters several events per day.
The staff plays “vibin” music — like Earth, Wind and Fire — to create a relaxed environment ideal for work, Assistant Manager Shaina Hotchkiss said. Koffee has a “warmer feel” than competitors like Café Romeo, frequent customer Bronwen Roberts ’10 said.
Koffee first opened in 1992, and its previous owners now run the Publick Cup on York Street.