by Joseph Erbentraut
It’s not unusual for a small business to work with community nonprofit groups, but a New York-based chain of coffee shops is taking that partnership further.
Coffeed operates six cafes in New York, plus a restaurant in Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan and a new location in Seoul, South Korea. The company partners with a different charity at each location.
As Inc. magazine reported earlier this year, the Queens-based chain opened its first Manhattan location in Chelsea in February inside the lobby of the headquarters of The Foundling, a nonprofit that provides foster care and adoption services.
In exchange for the highly coveted location at a reduced rental price -- $6,000 a month, about half the market rate -- Coffeed donates a percentage of its revenue to Foundling.
But that’s not where the partnership ends. The cafe also sets aside about a quarter of its interior space to information about Foundling's work and the issues of poverty and inequality. In addition, the cafe employs clients of the agency, including developmentally disabled adults and teenaged foster children.
At Coffeed’s flagship cafe on Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, the company partners with Brooklyn Grange, a small farm located on the building’s rooftop. As City Atlas reported in a 2013 article, Coffeed sources most of its produce from the farm and supports the work of City Growers, an initiative that educates the community about sustainability and agriculture. The company also partners with Community Mainstreaming Associates, a nonprofit that helps individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities attain residential and employment opportunities.
Coffeed’s social consciousness is no afterthought. The company’s CEO and founder, Frank Raffaele, was a stock trader during the pre-crash days, and saved up the funds with three other traders to open Coffeed's first location in 2012. Raffaele told the Times Ledger, a Queens newspaper, in a story published Monday that he “wanted to prove that traders had heart” with the cafes.
“As quick as we’re growing, we always keep that in mind,” Raffaele added.
The model appears to be working. Raffaele told Inc. that sales at the Chelsea cafe have averaged $2,000 a day and were “growing every week." He has ambitious plans for that growth to continue.
“I think people are social creatures and really do want to help one another,” Raffaele told City Atlas. “And I think that a business can be charitable as well as profitable. … I want to have 100 of these stores across the city.”