Coffee’s on the menu, but serving community is goal of A Cup of Common Wealth’s owners

By Elizabeth Adams KyForward correspondent

On the other side of the service counter at A Cup of Common Wealth on Eastern Avenue in downtown Lexington, co-owner Salvador Sanchez packs espresso presses, froths milk and pours bold cups of coffee suited in Java Jackets. As a nonstop stream of patrons open the turquoise door to the coffee shop, Sanchez drops everything to offer them a snappy high-five.

“We didn’t want this to be about coffee,” Sanchez said of his business. “While coffee is the product, it’s an experience that we wanted to create.”

Sanchez and co-owner Chris Ortiz founded A Cup of Common Wealth with the mission of embracing community, serving others and creating culture. While their coffee bar serves a full menu of cappuccinos, lattes, teas and smoothies, the underlying theme of the business is to forge relationships and serve the community of downtown Lexington.

Since opening A Cup of Common Wealth in July, Sanchez said two days in business stand out as his favorites. The first was opening day. He’ll always remember the magical realization that a long-held dream shared by two friends had come true.

His other favorite day was last Monday – the day after the business was robbed. The owners responded to the alarm system early Sunday morning to find a front window shattered and cash stolen. They boarded up the damaged window with plywood and carried on business as usual. By 6:30 a.m. on Monday, the community had already started a “broken window fund” for the business. Regular customers and artists in the community dropped off cash and made random donations to show their support for the business.

“It was a very emotional and touching day,” Sanchez said.

Word about the outpouring of love from A Cup of Common Wealth’s community has spread through social media. Even the Huffington Postcaught wind of the story about a small coffee shop that had Lexington rallying.

Originally from the Southwest, Sanchez or Ortiz saw an opportunity for their community-centered business concept to work in Lexington. They met in Texas while working at Hastings. After they both worked for Whole Foods in Austin, Texas, the two relocated to Kentucky.

As part of their unique business model centered on service and community building, they introduced the “Pay It Forward” program. Customers can purchase a coffee for someone in advance, write down a description of the recipient on a Java Jacket and post the Java Jacket to the Pay It Forward Wall. At any given time, a free coffee is waiting for the intended recipient on the Pay It Forward Wall.

Through the Pay It Forward program, travelers through town have enjoyed free cappuccinos and strangers in the community have become friends. Sanchez and Ortiz wanted customers to feel empowered and involved in their business.

In turn, customers have helped out by donating artwork, decorations and even the Pay It Forward Wall cork board.

Often, Ortiz posts videos of Pay It Forward coffee recipients to A Cup of Common Wealth’s Facebook page. Throughout the holiday season, customers also are encouraged to exchange gifts under a little Christmas tree inside the coffee shop.

A Cup of Common Wealth is open seven days a week. For hours and to read the business’s blog, visit acupofcommonwealth.com.

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