Launching as a “giveback” coffee concept, new St. Louis café Lola Jean’s has partnered with Kaldi’s Coffee to raise money for local charities.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Russell Ping owns several eponymous Russell’s Cafe restaurants in St. Louis, including Russell’s on Macklind, Russell’s on Fenton, and Russell’s on Chesterfield. But this summer, he decided to launch a different kind of establishment. Rather than starting a traditional eatery, Russell partnered with St. Louis-based roasting company Kaldi’s Coffee to launch Lola Jean’s Giveback Coffee, a nonprofit coffee shop that donates all of its proceeds to organizations that support the St. Louis community.
Located down the street from Russell’s on Macklind, Lola Jean’s (named after Russell’s daughter) is a pop-up shop—Russell estimates it will be open for about a year. In that year, Lola Jean’s is devoted to raising money for several different charities through the sales of brewed coffee, cold brew on tap, and baked goods. These charitable partners will change periodically: Lola Jean’s launched with Habitat for Humanity St. Louis as its charity; Russell says they raised about $1,500 for the organization. In September, Lola Jean’s will donate proceeds to the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.
Russell’s long-term plan for the space is to turn it into an Italian restaurant complete with a brick, wood-fired pizza oven (aptly, it will be called Lola Jean’s Pizza). Because he wasn’t ready to launch a new full-scale restaurant when the space became available, he shifted to the “giveback coffee” concept. “I had been brainstorming ideas for a project that could give back to the community, and this seemed like a perfect fit,” Russell says. “The idea was to keep the overhead low so that profits could be donated to charity.”
Key to Russell getting Lola Jean’s up and running this summer was his partnership with Kaldi’s Coffee. Equipment for the café was bought and installed through the roaster, and Kaldi’s Wholesale Coffee Trainer Matt Foster trained the four baristas who staff Lola Jean’s and continues to support and guide the team.
Kaldi’s and Lola Jean’s have also partnered for events to generate further funds for the partner charities. In August, the two partnered for a throwdown at Lola Jean’s to raise awareness for the new space in the local coffee community. Partners including Still630 and Revel Kitchen, Russell’s Cafe, and Kaldi’s donated prizes for a raffle, and the raffle tickets and the $10 throwdown buy-ins went toward Habitat for Humanity St. Louis.
For Kaldi’s, the partnership has been an important way to impact organizations that make a positive difference in St. Louis. “It means a lot to us to partner with a café that is giving back to the community,” Matt says. “When Russell first approached us with this concept, we didn’t hesitate to partner with him on it. Supporting such local causes is important to us because our team members, guests, and families are part of these communities.”
As Lola Jean’s gains awareness in the community, Kaldi’s hopes to hold additional throwdowns in the coming months to raise further money for local charities. For Matt and Kaldi’s, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to strengthen the area. “We want to be a positive influence and leader in the neighborhoods we serve, and supporting an amazing space like Lola Jean’s will only help us in that endeavor,” he says.
And while Lola Jean’s Giveback Coffee will eventually cede its space to Lola Jean’s Pizza, Russell says the café will not disappear completely. “We plan to keep the giveback coffee concept and move it to a garage space on the property when we open Lola Jean’s Pizza,” he says.
For more on Lola Jean’s, check out their website here.