Coffee shop also provides paternity tests, urine tests, notary, tax prep

Camden, NJ's City Coffee has managed to thrive, despite the retail mass-collapse in Camden's city center. The coffee shop's secret is to offer every conceivable service. So in addition to coffee and pastries, you can also get a urine test, a paternity test, financial planning, tax prep, a studio photo-portrait, and, soon, a specialist cleanup service for landlords whose houses have been rented by compulsive hoarders. The counter-staff also serve as unofficial fixers for local lawyers, because all the judges and clerks eat there. Jo Piazza profiled the business for the WSJ:

On a normal day, jurors and lawyers mix with criminal defendants, city bureaucrats cross paths with recovering addicts from the nearby methadone clinic — and everyone comes to see Mona Pryor, whose job title as City Coffee’s operations director scarcely hints at her many roles.

“Lawyers are always coming in here to ask me to put in a good word with judge so-and-so, or asking me to introduce them to someone from the other side,” said Pryor. She is the one-woman force behind most of City Coffee’s services, with an associate’s degree in accounting and a variety of specialty certificates.

“We did about 300 tax returns this season. I do the DNA swabs and the drug testings. I’m one of the only notaries around and I am always marketing the businesses,” Pryor said from a desk covered in dozens of note pads. “But I also make a perfect latte.”

City Coffee owner Ronald Ford Jr. succinctly sums up the central insight behind his multi-business strategy: “You can get your drug test while you are waiting for your coffee to be done.”

Struggling City’s Coffee Shop Serves It All (via Consumerist)


  1. Is the coffee any good, though?

    A place here in town is a combo donut shop/dog groomer/dry cleaner. Can’t help but laugh when I pass by.

    1. Reminds me of this Christian bookstore, dog grooming combo. The owner liked the symmetry of god/dog together.

    2. Is the coffee any good, though?

      Other people rave about it, but mine tasted like piss for some reason.

    1. That was fascinating, thanks ! As a soon-to-be independent translator in a big city with expensive rent, my office will probably be the local coffee-shop for some time anyway…glad to learn I might be ahead of the curve :)

  2. They’re in the unique position of being just about the only functioning business establishment in a fair radius, except for a couple of bail bond shops. 

    Another way of looking at their “success” is that when the sum total of commerce in a mid-sized city center supports exactly one coffee shop, the city’s jolly well fucked.

      1.  I’m not qualified to answer in-depth, but Wikipedia’s article on Camden is eye-opening (fire department “brownouts”!). 

        My lay, carpetbagging opinion is that since Robert Moses-era planning cut off Philly’s waterfront access with a gigantic highway, economically integrating the two cities is extremely difficult.  Add to that the grinding poverty of most residents and the fact that the biggest businesses in the city spend almost no money locally.

  3. Apparently ‘designer’ is not on her resume.

    I mean seriously. Peignot? Yecch. Ghastly horrible ugly stupid useless typeface.

  4. This just reminds me of Mr Haney’s(from Green Acres) business model? Wow childhood tv memory flashback.

  5. I saw a similar store traveling through NC, honestly couldn’t believe they weren’t shut down for breaking copyright law

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