Millennial coffee shop owners are breaking all the rules. Erik Johnson, co-owner of Think Well Community Coffee, is one such owner and represents the newest wave of the coffee industry.

When entering the coffee shop, the smell of coffee and the atmosphere that comes with local shops is a breath of fresh and warm air amid the chilly winter winds. While many students own coffee machines to save on overall cost, some choose coffee shops in the area for the ambiance. Independent coffee shops offer a snapshot of local community, which is found in Waverly.

Think Well is an eclectic human experience, geared toward all types of clientele. Walking through the doorway was like being enveloped in a warm hug. Patrons chatter like parakeets over a cup of joe while others work on homework as the Beatles’ “Let it Be” plays softly on the radio.

A quote from Plato takes up a floor-to-ceiling section of the wall in the entryway, mirroring the full-length windows across from it, which allows sunlight to stream in. Tucked in the back right corner of the shop is Johnson’s pride and joy, the roaster, where he can be found preparing tomorrow’s batch of coffee.

“There is a paradigm that business, in the sense that we talk, is like having a certain pair of glasses that you put on and see the world [where all you see is profit]. This is how you understand humans and who you are to each other, the world around us, the earth, all these things. That paradigm is …” Johnson used an expletive. “This is a humanexperience.”

In the United States, 47% of individuals ages 18-24 drink coffee, a Statista survey states. Many of those individuals go to local coffee shops for the atmosphere, where they can choose to remain anonymous or socially active, Psychology Today explained.

Others replicate the noise with websites such as, which allow the listener to choose what type of “distracting” noise to put on. Think of it as Spotify Premium, but for white noise. “I think that environment contributes a lot to productivity, like family,” Alondra Gonzalez, a student worker for the Konditorei, Wartburg’s on-campus coffee shop, said. Gonzalez also frequents coffee shops in the Waverly area.

“Sometimes you may have issues with them, but when your family is in harmony, talking to them about anything is so much easier. [Coffee shops] are like that in the way that it is so welcoming and you don’t have that feeling in the back of your head telling you that things are not right.”

Coffee shops also fulfill social and behavioral needs by establishing a culture that allow individuals to choose their level of involvement, Psychology Today reported. Johnson and his wife, Becky, took over what was originally Duos Coffee & Ice Cream in August of 2017 with the goal of making the business a place for everyone to fit. The coffee shop was rebranded as Think Well in January of 2020.

“Culture is a really big component because when you have a shop, you are establishing a certain set of rules you are choosing to have interactions based upon,” Johnson explained.

“How the place feels, how it operates, how it functions. The guiding forces and framework the owner is coming from totally shapes what the shop turns into. [Here] We are going to make a place that is giving good things to people, having a good environment and caring for the people as people, not as money. We’re not willing to compromise on how we need to be as people.”







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