Small Business Spotlight: The Local Cup

Hannah Connell, Co-Editor in Chief

The Local Cup, a pay-it-forward coffee shop in the Near Northwest Neighborhood, is a welcoming space for neighbors. Founded in 2015 by partners Mike and Catherine Griffin, Brook Hardy, and John Horton, the cafe is a lively location to catch up with neighbors or find refuge from cold weather. The cafe relies on a unique pay-it-forward model; which encourages customers to enjoy a drink paid for by their neighbor or to make a donation themselves. Baristas tell new customers, “Your coffee has already been paid for by a neighbor. You can take it as a gift if you’d like, or you can pay it forward.” This mission is important to the integrity of the establishment and provides a truly inclusive space for the neighborhood.

The volunteer-run cafe has pride in giving back to the community. Located on Portage avenue, the cafe serves as an intersectional meeting place. Brook Hardy, co-founder of The Local Cup, grew up in the same neighborhood where the cafe now sits. She remembers seeing a disparity in the resources of the neighborhoods surrounding the cafe.

“This neighborhood is a microcosm of a lot of the community issues we’re dealing with in the country — particularly around issues of income disparity and race.” Brook Hardy, Co-Founder.

By establishing The Local Cup, the co-founders intend to bridge gaps within the neighborhood and “create real and lasting community.”

The founders are grateful for the success of the last five years and The Local Cup continues to attract new neighbors. The cafe even has their own blend for customers to brew at home! All coffee-beans are ethically sourced. The baristas can tell you that when the cafe offers the Honduras blend, the beans come from Rudy Carcamo’s farm in Honduras. This method of transparent trade supports farmers in Honduras more than if they were to sell fair-trade. “We want everything we do to be as ethical as possible, even if that’s for the local people that the coffee comes from, halfway across the world,” says Hardy. 

This past Saturday, November 28, was Small Business Saturday; an initiative to encourage consumers to shop local and support entrepreneurs. When consumers support small businesses, they are supporting the community. Each purchase from a local business, helps the owner compensate employees, pay living expenses, and circulate money through the community. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, more than half of Americans own or work for a small business. Small businesses create two-thirds of new jobs in the U.S. each year. The pandemic and subsequent economic decline have hit small businesses across the nation hard. Small businesses across the country have had to adapt to the uncertainties that 2020 brought, and the Local Cup is no different. The next time you fancy a hot cup of coffee, support the community by shopping local. The Local Cup is located on 1009 Portage Ave. The cafe’s hours are Saturday 9am-1pm and Sunday 1pm-5pm.