Local coffee shop appeals to selective diets

Hawkeye Community College freshman Bailey Conrad is enjoying the many vegan options she finds at Cup of Joe on Main Street.

Hawkeye Community College freshman Bailey Conrad can often be found engulfed by a 1950s couch with a vanilla latte in one hand and a freshly baked vegan muffin in the other.

Conrad became vegan two years ago when she started seeing animal cruelty on social media. “It started showing up on Instagram. Live footage from slaughter houses,” Conrad said. “I knew I always loved animals, and than it started to click for me that if I knew I always loved animals, then why I am supporting what I am seeing on these screens?” 

Conrad had a ritual of going to the coffee shop Cup of Joe at least once a week with her friends when she attended Janesville. Her desires for a pastry, vanilla latte and the inviting vibes of Cup of Joe in the afternoon didn’t stop when she became vegan. 

Knowing Cup of Joe had a “welcoming environment” and many options for vegans, she continued this tradition when she became vegan during her junior year. “Cup of Joe is definitely the best in the area. They have the most vegan options,” Conrad said. 

Cup of Joe started offering vegan and wheat-free/gluten free options 12 years ago. Owner, Dawn Wilson, lactose intolerant herself, knew that not everyone could enjoy a cinnamon roll with cream cheese frosting or a latte with dairy milk. 

“I know from my own allergies that a lot of people have different allergies to different foods,” Wilson said, “so the mainstream muffin or the mainstream pastry doesn’t pertain to all customers, so I was trying to give as much variety as I possibly could to the customers.” 

Although Conrad specifies to coffee shops and other business her preference for non-dairy milk, sometimes she is handed a drink with dairy milk. Because of these slip-ups, Conrad’ mind is never at rest. “I’m constantly paranoid,” Conrad said.  “Even if I ask for almond milk or soy milk, I am like, ‘I really hope this is what I ask for.’” 

But, Conrad doesn’t have this fear when she is a customer at Cup of Joe, knowing they keep food allergies in mind. “I don’t fear that because some people may have allergies to different animal products, so that food needs to be up to regulation for them too,” she said. 

Wilson said that the business often receives requests regarding recipes being made vegan or gluten free. When contemplating the requests, Wilson said she has to think about “the whole and not the individual. 

“We are always happy to try,” Wilson said, “so, as long as I can make it, and I will be up in the kitchen with my bakers figuring out a recipe, and we will do our best to make it happen.” 

The only request Wilson will not accommodate is almond milk.“The only reason why we don’t use almond milk is because it contaminates the wands we steam our milk in, and if someone has a severe nut allergy, someone could have a reaction to that,” Wilson said. “I couldn’t bring myself to do it because I had to think of the bigger picture of someone with a severe nut allergy.” 

 When Wilson extended Cup of Joe’s menu to include different options for people with allergies or different preferences, she saw an increase in customers like Conrad. “I have noticed, not just the vegan items but gluten-free items too,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s mission for Cup of Joe focuses on the environment and the community. She said it’s “to make sure that I give the best customer service, the best quality of ingredients and items, and give people the best atmosphere, but be conscious of what I buy, to support local as much as I can. It is a daily duty to offer a variety of options to customers, like Conrad, who have special preferences.”

Not a crumb is left on Conrad’s plate when she leaves the coffee shop. She said she is left with the satisfaction of helping out a local business and fees good about what she puts into her body. “It’s amazing knowing I am supporting a local coffee shop rather than Starbucks,” Conrad said. “I think it’s more piece of mind when I drink that. Just knowing what’s in dairy milk and what’s in plant based milk and just knowing what’s going in my body.” 

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