Gabrielle and her brother John Rubinstein left the arts world to dedicate themselves to building out their coffeehouses. Their concept, Joe Coffee, introduced latte art to New York, before good coffee was even a thought. John Rubinstein was working for a talent agency in New York when he decided to quit his job and start opening coffee stores. “He’s very entrepreneurial,” says Gabrielle, who quit opera shortly after. The two siblings are creatives, and had very little knowledge about the coffee industry. “It was just like throwing a dart in the dark… we didn’t know what we were doing and we kind of got lucky,” states Gabrielle, now the company’s Vice President.
Her brother began his market research by sitting down at Starbucks and counting how many people would pass by. Gabrielle’s favorite coffee shop in Berkshire, Lenox Coffee, took the dynamic duo under their wing and taught them how to run a high-quality coffee store with latte art. When they opened their doors in 2003 in the West Village, Gabrielle remembers how “people were lining up out the door” since they had never seen latte art before.
One can say that Joe Coffee started the coffee and latte art trend in New York City. Shortly after, other companies caught on and coffee stores from other states began opening in the big apple. Renowned companies like Blue Bottle Coffee and Stumptown came from San Francisco and Portland, respectively. Joe Coffee is not intimidated by this “competition,” however.
Although Gabrielle admits that “it gets harder to distinguish yourself” as more and more coffee concepts open their doors, she recognizes the unique features of her company: “the enduring quality, the hospitality, and the comfort of the stores”. Gabrielle is proud of how Joe Coffee has never compromised quality or cut corners, despite having fourteen locations throughout Manhattan. Instead, she believes that “the bigger we get, the more time we can put into training people”. In addition, Joe Coffee focuses on hospitality, and making sure that the stores are “for everybody,” from a little kid to a coffee aficionado.
The culture at Joe Coffee is what keeps people happy – customers and staff alike. Each store has its own small community, where both regulars and newcomers feel welcome. The staff at Joe Coffee is especially loyal because they recognize the opportunity to grow within the company. Joe Coffee usually promotes from within and from the first day you are hired into the company, you are told that if you want to do more, the opportunity will be sought out for you. And since the company has grown at such a rapid pace, there are always new jobs to be filled. However, Joe Coffee is hesitant to continue to expand.
Gabrielle and her brother love owning their company and have not yet accepted outside investments. They emphasize the fact that they do not want to cut corners and recognize how that is in danger once funding comes into play. For that reason, they are not looking to open any more brick-and-mortar stores for the moment. Their most recent opening is at the Cadillac House in Hudson; their next two openings will be in Columbia University and at the One World Trade Center.