Brewing community: LaJoy’s Coffee, more than a cafe

| Staff Writer

The airy glass walls of the Schnuck Pavilion’s Parkside Cafe pre-date the arrival of LaJoy’s Coffee to the building, yet they feel like a perfect match nonetheless. The space is open and inviting, and the newly-settled-in coffee shop seems right at home in it. LaJoy’s emphasizes the unique ability of a coffee shop to bring people together in everything it does, from its logo to its name — the original location bore the name “LaJoy’s Coffee Cafe,” pointedly elevating itself beyond a mere “shop” role. 

LaJoy’s coffee brings WashU students together. (Illustration by Dion Hines)

For LaJoy Dabney, it goes without saying that a coffee shop is more than just a place to buy a latte. The business that bears her name started as a passion project in the waning days of the pandemic, first opening its doors in June of 2021. She conceived LaJoy’s as a way of bringing together a community and healing from an era of isolation. And by her own admission, it immediately had more success than she could’ve anticipated. The shop has always been about connectedness — she initially looked at founding a candy store, but ultimately decided that the communal aspect of coffee shops was more appealing. “Everybody likes the talking, gossip, [and] sitting around,” she said. 

The idea of appealing to “everybody” was what stood out, even more than what she was selling. In fact, LaJoy says she’s never been a coffee drinker herself despite not only founding a coffee shop, but creating her own brand of coffee to sell. A self-described tea person, she took classes on coffee-making, putting in three months of work to test and taste dozens of different blends before finding the perfect one for both customers and herself. She also took care to ensure that the menu went beyond just catering to coffee drinkers, making sure to include a variety of additional drinks such as lemonades and smoothies, cementing her commitment to offering something for everyone.

LaJoy’s conception of the coffee shop feels tailor-made for a college campus, where a coffee shop can function as a place to eat, drink, caffeinate, study, and socialize simultaneously. She describes expanding to WashU as an opportunity that excited her, and it seems to have been a promising start. She’s optimistic about the progress LaJoy’s has made in becoming a part of WashU culture, and enjoys personally interacting with students. In terms of future expansion opportunities, she mentions that opening locations in other colleges around the area would be a next step that would fit the way she does business. LaJoy’s seems to be dedicated to bringing people together in a way that doesn’t go beyond what a coffee shop does, but rather recognizes the potential therein. That’s what sticks out to LaJoy herself: “To see people together — smiling, being happy — that’s a big thing.”


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