Since launching in 2003 in Greenwich Village, Joe Coffee president Jonathan Rubinstein and his family have been growing the concept by about one shop per year in different Manhattan neighborhoods, with Rubinstein’s goal to establish Joe as the high-end coffee shop for the area before third-wave competitors like Stumptown, La Colombe and Intelligentsia moved in.
“I think the difference [between Joe and third-wave competitors] is…we really push warm hospitality and a neighborhood feel,” Rubinstein says. “Our stores are a bit more quaint, less austere aesthetics and our focus is to greet customers with a ‘Hi, welcome back to Joe.’”
Joe’s neighborhood presence and hospitality focus attracted attention from Danny Meyer and USHG. The company, which has served Joe Coffee at some of its concepts and events in the past, calls Joe “the ultimate neighborhood coffee bar.”
“USHG has had a meaningful relationship with Joe Coffee and founder Jonathan Rubinstein for many years, both as avid fans of their coffee bars and also having served their coffee at Union Square Events for years,” Meyer said in a statement announcing the investment. “We chose to make this investment with Joe Coffee because they are dedicated to the pursuit of making flawless coffee, are led by passionate and exceptional management, and share the same hospitality values as USHG.”
Rubinstein says a main reason he chose to partner with USHG is the shared commitment to sustainable sourcing. Last year, Joe sourced coffee from 16 farms around the world, and the chain has a dedicated team—with each person responsible for a region—that visits farms and meets with growers. Nearly all of Joe’s coffee is made from direct trade beans, and the goal is for all beans to rainforest alliance-certified (Rubinstein says that as of recently, all of its blends are certified rainforest alliance). Like other third-wave coffee brands, Joe’s menu is made up of rotating single-origin and blended coffees, along with simple espresso drinks.