Every coffee shop is different, and no one knows that better than you—the coffee shop owners who build a unique story and brand with every cup. Welcome to our latest edition of Breaking New Grounds.
We’re all about the little victories working with businesses in the coffee industry, and we enjoy celebrating the news of an independent coffee shop we love signing up for our product. Recently, a ping in my Slack notifications alerted me that a former all-star barista from our on-demand staffing network had opened her own coffee shop: Principles GI Coffee House in Brooklyn, New York. The usual mini-celebration at my desk wouldn’t cut it this time—I had to get hands-on with this success story.
Since 2017, Katie Bishop has been collecting coffee knowledge as she trained under a barista that had consistently placed in the top five at the United States Barista Championship. After working under great coffee trainers and bouncing around the coffee world for two years, Katie submitted her application to be an on-demand barista at cups in 2019.
A few months into working at cups, the pandemic hit and Katie began making bigger plans for her own coffee shop:
I got the idea to open my own cafe because in my last few months working at [my previous coffee job], I realized I love customer interactions, I love building relationships with regulars… And I want all the work that I do to build my reputation, to build my business. As I was focusing more on really opening Principles, I couldn’t wait for the day when I could text back from one of these [open shift messages from cups] and be like ‘Hey, I’m on the other side of this equation.’
Flash forward two and a half years later, and here I sit in Principles GI Coffee House, interviewing Katie about being a business owner.
Katie has been able to apply her depth of knowledge about coffee and customer experience, as well as her own guiding principles (hence the shop’s name), to create a welcoming, exciting experience for all levels of coffee drinkers. “Principles will always be a space intentionally designed for marginalized people,” according to their business ethics. Katie strives to foster a safe space for all visitors to come and enjoy a cup of coffee. When she says all visitors, she truly means it:
If someone wants to pay less for a drink or can’t afford a full drink, I’ll charge them whatever they want to pay or give them a free drink. I don’t want anyone to be turned off from quality drinks because they can’t afford it. This is a small luxury, and I want it to be affordable to everyone.
The coffeehouse serves incredibly high-quality coffee, espresso, and tea from companies that embody similar principles as the shop. One of the roasters she currently has in stock, Mother Tongue Coffee, “works with a lot of women farm collectives, so it’s a very women, non-binary, queer centered coffee chain – from seed to farm to import to roaster”, Katie explained. On top of being ethically conscious, the owner and lead roaster, Jen Apodaca, won second place in the 2022 Roasters Championship, so your cup of coffee may be the best you’ve ever tasted.
Principles also works with roasters on the experimental end, constantly learning from the risk takers and innovators of the coffee industry. “I almost always have George Howell. One of my specialties right now is this vintage coffee that was harvested in 2014… It’s a pretty new thing. He was a pioneer in roasting in the late 80s early 90s, and he’s still a pioneer to this day.” Each cup made at Principles is unique, and there’s something on the menu at various experimental levels for everyone to enjoy.
Outside of experimenting with specialty coffee, Principles plans to become an even more active member in the neighborhood and continue to host events. Katie explained,
A friend of mine owns a bike shop a few blocks away and he comes over about every other week and teaches a class. All the classes we offer here are free which is another one of my principles and his as well: knowledge should be freely shared. We’re not trying to hoard knowledge and we’re not trying to capitalize off of knowledge.
Even though her shop has recently opened, the community she has been able to build in a short period of time was a pleasure to experience. As I asked her questions over a cup of coffee, I saw friends preparing for a tag sale event raising money for abortion funds, cyclists fixing up their bikes for the next race that Principles co-hosts, and neighborhood locals enjoying small talk over iced coffee. I highly recommend paying Principles GI Coffee House a visit to experience the accessible business model and environment Katie has been able to create – whether it’s for a free event, a delicious (and ethically sourced!) cup of coffee, or a fulfilling conversation, your time here will always be well spent.