Pulling Espresso & Pulling in People at La Colombe

We’re so enamored with our lovely, light-filled studio overlooking Lafayette Street on the border of SoHo and Nolita that we wanted to post about our neighbors’ great brand experiences, interesting names and thought-provoking brand strategies to give you an idea of what it’s like to work in such an inspiring area. Here we go…

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Like our days, our Neighborhood Series starts with coffee. Whether walking up our block or looking out our windows, the waving of the La Colombe Torrefaction flag from the Soho outpost directly below our office and the coffee-perfumed air emanating from it tempts us to wander in for truly delicious coffee.

But sometimes we have to wait, as it’s not uncommon to see a line out the door and down Lafayette. New York is no stranger to coffee and the pursuit of localized, simpler experiences is going strong and getting stronger (proof: a European espresso franchise is about to open its first U.S. cafe in NYC—to the tune of $34,500/month for its West Village lease). New Yorkers continue to be a demanding bunch and there’s something about what La Colombe offers—an experience “where taste trumps novelty”—that sits just right with us.

Because La Colombe focuses so clearly on coffee, customers, and the community, every brand touch point carries meaning. When it comes to coffee, there’s no menu. Anywhere. There’s no need since La Colombe only deals with the true basics and they’ve hired knowledgeable and talented baristas to support the offering. No mocha frappuccinos here, but you will find the essentials: black coffee, cappuccino, latte, mocha, macchiato, etc. Without the multitude of choices that have become standard elsewhere, like a range of sizes, flavor shots, types of milk, and intensities of foaminess, customers have to be true coffee enthusiasts because they can’t doctor up their drink until it becomes unrecognizable and La Colombe has to have full confidence in its roast since it stands on its own.

For customers, it’s easy to become a regular. Not only did the baristas have our drinks down after only a few trips in, but they do more than just make coffee—they make conversation. Plus, La Colombe supports local businesses (Francois Payard’s baked treats are for sale) and events that add color to the neighborhood (understated leaflets promoting local events make an appearance once in a while). But, there’s no distracting collection of tangentially related and heavily branded merchandise to clutter the experience. Even when a line snails around, the natural materials, white space and calm energy creates a blissfully serene and welcoming atmosphere.

If you order a drink to stay you’ll be handed an elegant black and white Deruta ceramic cup and saucer (well documented on both Yelp and Pinterest) or a simply branded paper cup if you take it to go. Either way, you’ll have a delightfully simple experience under your belt and a real coffee treat in your hand. No wonder La Colombe has such a large, devoted following: they offer a streamlined, authentically European-style coffee experience without pretense or frills. With all the other coffee destinations in the city, loyalists seek out La Colombe because it’s true to its brand. Taste does indeed trump the trappings of novelty that have fragmented the focus of other coffee establishments.

(Images by Heather Hardy)

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If you need a cheat sheet before you visit, may I suggest you check out Plaid’s Pour Poster badges? Our friends at Basno helped us turn our original Plaid Pour Poster into digital badges so you can own your favorite coffee drinks online. Apart from the doctored-up drinks we feature (i.e., alcohol infused), the La Colombe baristas will be happy to create any one of these for you.