In 2003, Jonathan Rubinstein found himself tired of being a talent agent. So he borrowed $150,000 from his parents to open Joe Coffee, an espresso bar in the West Village — a location that had its fair share of Starbucks, four of them in close proximity to his shop.
A year after his start as a coffee entrepreneur, I interviewed Rubinstein for the first time and asked the obvious: How do you go up against the monster mermaid that is Starbucks? His answer was simple. Customer service was his competitive edge.
If a customer walked into Joe and ordered a café latte with skim milk, he expected his staff to remember that the next day and ask, “Do you want that latte with skim milk.” Because of volume, Starbucks’ employees couldn’t do that.