Remembering Emelyne Smith

My heart broke clear in half when I learned that bright, sweet Emelyne Smith had taken her own life last Wednesday in New York City. She was only 31 years old.

I got to know Emelyne ”or Emmy as her friends called her ”through email and over the phone. An aspiring journalist, Emmy was fascinated by the coffee world and community within which she lived and worked as a barista at Joe New York for the last four years. She pitched story ideas to me about her network, and what she learned while studying the industry through travels to Seattle to work with David Schomer, and Rhode Island to attend the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Coffee Conference (MANE) as a writer for Joe’s blog.

Raised in Ithaca, N.Y., Emmy studied journalism in college in New Jersey. Like many who have gone on, as she did, to become stand-outs in the coffee industry, Emmy fell in love with coffee while trying to make some extra cash as a student when she took a job at the cafe, Small World, in Princeton. What began as a part-time gig lasted five years, and though she went on to excel in her work at Joe, she still considered the Small World staff part of her family. She laughed when she told me she had been drinking coffee daily since age 11, and, being quite petite, mused at whether she would be any taller if she’d stuck to orange juice.

Emmy was effervescent. She was a whirlwind of energy and laughter and kindness and color. She told me her mom would flip out when she learned Emmy had a story in Barista Magazine, even though she had already been published in such journals as BUST.  That’s how intent she was on sticking with coffee, as a barista as well as a writer.

She loved horror movies and her rescue dog, Panda. And she was a darling of the Joe Coffee staff. “She embodied everything good about coffee and community ”she was an amazing person, with us for four years, and acted as our coffee educator at Grand Central as well as our HR manager for the whole company,” says Joe owner Jonathan Rubinstein. “She was adored, revered even, by the staff and customers who set up a makeshift memorial for her at the Grand Central shop.

Though she wore a cheery face to most of those she encountered every day, Emmy struggled desperately with depression, which led to her tragic decision to end her own life last week. Emmy’s mother would like to raise awareness of depression and suicide issues, and asks that any donation gifts Emmy’s friends would like to make be directed to The Samaritans, a non-religious, community-based organization in the NYC-Metropolitan area solely devoted to preventing suicide and helping people in crisis.

For those of you in New York, there will be a memorial for Emmy at Joe’s Headquarters, 131 West 21st Street, on Wednesday evening.

About Sarah 932 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Dear Emelyne I immediately thought “What a beautiful name and what an adorable girl” I am the Mom of one of your co-workers…And I was so glad she was working with such a bubbly cool darling “character” You made the job a joy for her..When I heard that you were going through some tough times recently I said a prayer for you. Wished I had said the rosary!! You would understand my small humor. In circumstances like this it is so hard to think of any explanation that would soothe the loss and bridge the gap of grief for those that so loved you. If only,, if only,, is all that rises to the surface. You were loved more than you knew and we will all remain touched by your presence and large personality. You are in the palm of the Lords Hand now and I will continue to pray for your Family and Friends

  2. I only knew her across the bar at JOE, but she had such an special spark, such devastating news.

  3. I didnt know her well. I met her for about half an hour about a month or two ago. She made quite an impression on me in that half hour. She showed me her tattoo of her dog and recomended the tattoo artist that did it. I booked an appointment with the artist and had a tatto done a few weeks later. Im told by our mutial aquantance that she was a bit tickled that I went with her rec. I will think of her whenever I look at that tatoo. God speed young lady.

  4. Gutted! That is how I felt when I walked in to get my morning coffee and saw her picture and the message that she was dead… every time I walked into the shop I still feel gutted and will be feeling that way for a while… RIP

  5. I am very sad to hear such devastating news. Emelyne always brought a smile to my face.

  6. So very sad when I learned that this bright young light had left us. Emmy made such a deep positive impression.

    I miss her now and send my condolences to her parents and co-workers.


  7. Emelyne worked for me at Small World Coffee for almost six years, in that time she not only became one of the most trusted and proficient members of my staff, she also became a friend. Emmy had Star Power. Emmy was one-of-a-kind. She entertained us all with her quirky & witty humor and fascial expressions, her explosive moves on the dance floor, and her sincere presence when she was around you.

    My heart goes out to her family, who she was very very close to. If you met Emmy’s mom, you would see that the apple does not fall too far from the tree. Glynn is a beautiful and talented artist with a wit of her own. She has had multiple art shows at our cafes over the years. All of us at Small World Coffee share in their grief and appreciate her family’s upfront acknowledge of her cause of death. I encourage folks that knew her to make donations to the aforementioned charity.

    Her reach went far beyond her family, friends and co-workers. As news of her death is spreading, I have been approached by so many customers that she has not served in years, expressing their sincere sadness about her passing. She had a memorable quality and nature that resonated with many. As one of my friend’s said, “she was unique in a cookie-cutter world”.

    We are going to miss you Emmy, but we will never forget you.

    a.k.a “boss lady”

  8. Sarah,

    Thank you for this post.

    I’ve been going to Coffee By Joe in Grand Central Station for a couple of years. The very first time I went in there, Emmy stood behind the counter greeting each customer with a warm, sincere smile. Besides the wonderful coffee, I continue to go back to Joe because of the staff, who always seem happy, and who always make you feel that they’re genuinely glad to see you.

    All of the staffers at Joe have their own way of showing warmth, and their own way to make each customer feel welcome. It’s impossible to say that any of of them is “the most” anything. Without discrediting any of the other baristas, I want to say that you could not look at Emmy without smiling. You could not encounter her without feeling just a tiny bit better about the world. It’s not an overstatement to say that there were some days when I saw her that I left Joe’s feeling more hopeful, and willing myself to try to be more like Emmy.

    As I paid for this morning’s coffee I saw the notice that Emmy had died. Like so many others around me, I could not stop myself from crying.

    Anyone who brought happiness to so many deserves to be happy herself. I pray there is a heaven, and that she is there.

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