PMA Member Spotlight on Jessica Durrie
Small World Coffee
Tell us about yourself. Where did you grow up? Why did you choose the business career you are in?
I was born in Berkeley, CA. Due to my father’s job, my family moved overseas when I was four and moved back when I was almost 17. We lived in Italy, Australia, and Brazil. It was an amazing way to grow up filled with endless adventures and eye-opening experiences.
I decided to go into the restaurant business after taking a few years off from college. Initially I worked in restaurants as a way to pay rent, but I ended up really enjoying the work environment. When I went back to school, I studied at Cornell’s School of Hotel & Restaurant Management. From that point on I was committed to opening my own establishment. The desire to go into coffee specifically came to me during my senior year at Cornell after visiting my brother in Vienna … I was so drawn into the coffee culture there I decided coffee was the direction I wanted to go in.
Why Princeton? How long have you been in business or worked in Princeton?
My business partner, Brant Cosaboom, and I decided to do a search around the country for the best place for us to open up our store. We were both willing to move just about anywhere, as long as we thought it would have a great chance for success. We were specifically looking for a university town with somewhere around 80,000 to 100,000 people, a place that had a dynamic mix of retail, high walkability, and relatively affluent. Once we found Princeton, even though it was a smaller town than we thought we needed, our search ended. We have been here for almost 23 years now!
What makes your business special?
I think one of the things that sets us apart from so many other places is our commitment to expedient and hospitable service. We have an intensive training program that not only teaches our worldlings (this is what we call ourselves) how to make great coffee, but equally important, it teaches them efficiency and grace under pressure. Over time, they are able to learn the system and trust it, which allows the employees to bring their personalities to the table. Also, I think Small World has a genuine, unique and positive vibe that is conducive to cultivating a social community atmosphere.
What do you consider your biggest accomplishment so far?
Professionally, I am very proud of the business that Brant and I have created. Our success has not happened by accident; it has been constant slow and steady pressure. I think we have managed to hire some amazing people like our general manager, Vincent Jule, and our head trainer, Tuc Sargentini. I am also tremendously proud of all the amazing relationships that we have developed through Small World and that Princeton seems to care about what we have created. Beyond Small World, I am incredibly proud of my kids Nick and Emma.
Who influenced you the most in your career and why?
My parents – my dad for his constant “devil’s advocate” approach to any advice I would seek and for his curiosity; my mother for her creative outlook on life and her calm but strong presence. Also, Tommy York, one of my only bosses ever, who taught me how to trust people, to have fun and work hard at the same time. Then honestly, I have learned so much from many of my employees.
Are you involved in any charitable/community causes that you are passionate about?
I was on the Arts Council of Princeton board for 9 years. Right now I am on a Community Advisory Council for the Princeton Art Museum.