A Cup of Common Wealth’s Operations Manager Alexandra Canada appears to know every single person by name who walks through the doors of the humble little downtown Lexington coffee shop with the teal door – whether they are homeless or dressed in an expensive business suit.
Each person is treated as an individual, as a human. In part, it’s this mentality that has helped foster a sense of community at A Cup of Common Wealth, which opened at 105 Eastern Ave. in 2013.
And it’s helped the coffee shop grow. Within the last 12 months, ACOCW bought out a local coffee roasting company and opened two new correlating businesses – Common Wealth Mercantile and Chocolate Holler.
Canada has stayed in nearly constant motion at Cup of Common Wealth for nearly three years, starting as a barista, and said the work and customer service environment at “Cup” is unlike anything else she’s experienced.
“Community is the most important thing,” said 25-year-old Canada. “It’s a lot more about the customers than just bringing in the sales. This is actually important to them.”
And the shop has been noticed for it. ACOCW was named the 2016 Small Business of the Year at Commerce Lexington’s Salute to Small Business Awards Luncheon in August 2016.
“We were extremely honored and humbled by it,” said ACOCW owner Salvador Sanchez, who is better known around Lexington as “Sal.”
ACOCW has stayed true to its original mission to “Embrace Community. Serve Others. Create Culture.” The staff has quadrupled in size under the ownership of Sanchez, who originally founded the business with friend Chris Ortiz.
The shop’s “Pay It Forward Board” provides customers the opportunity to buy a future drink for anyone to redeem at any time, and is constantly involved in community outreach and engaging in relationship-building marketing tactics.
“I wanted to open up a coffee house since I was a teenager,” Sanchez explained. “So, there has been plenty of time to come up with different ideas, both good and bad.”
Sanchez, 33, said community, service and culture have been a “driving force in my life and also what I believe good-hearted people practice every day and what good businesses strive for every day as well.”
Originally from Michigan, Sanchez said he is pleasantly surprised by the community ACOCW has been able
“More times than I can count, the people of Lexington have been there to support the shop (and me) through challenging times and through incredible times,” he said.
When the still-fledgling shop was broken into in December 2013, the outpouring of customer support afterward to make repairs was overwhelming.
“Someone biked down here with a piggy bank to help fix the window,” Canada said. “Customers would come in and pay $20 for a cup of coffee and not want anything back.”
And the favors are returned, she said. ACOCW regularly helps new businesses start up, donates coffee and gives out free coffee to customers when Sanchez has a whim.
“I’ll be stressed about money and Sal will be like, ‘Let’s give free drinks away all day,’ ” she said. “It truly comes from his genuine love for people.”
Payback’s a bench … of volunteers
That love came back around in January when the shop was preparing to open the all-new Chocolate Holler. Floods of volunteers came ready to be put to work.
Sanchez said Chocolate Holler will stick with the same mantra, but through a different medium – in this case chocolate in addition to coffee. The chocolate and coffee bar, located at 400 Old Vine St. – next door to popular Wines on Vine – will specialize in hot chocolate drinks, sipping chocolate, chocolate flights, chocolate mousse and brownies, and bar chocolate.
It also will serve the same original coffee drinks as ACOCW. The staff has been at work developing recipes, and eventually will expand the menu to add homemade food and pastries.
Coffee and chocolate pair well together, Canada said, and their production is very similar from the beginning. Some coffees and chocolates come from the same regions of the world.
Chocolate Holler, which celebrates its grand opening in February, will carry bar chocolates ranging from $4 to $12, and Canada described the hot chocolate drinks as “very decadent” with unexpected ingredients like cayenne pepper and cinnamon.
Sanchez hopes ACOCW’s original business model will help propel Chocolate Holler.
We want everyone to have an amazing experience every time they come into the shop, for them to feel like they’ve with family, in a living room,” he said. No matter the industry, Sanchez feels those principles can still apply.