Dan Coppola


My day job is owner of Café Domestique, a coffee shop on Willy Street. I came to this in a roundabout way.

Through high school and college, and for about 15 years afterwards, I worked in the bike industry. I managed logistics for cycling vacations and events for Trek Travel and active running and cycling events while working at Adventure Fit, a Colorado event promotion company.

Most of my work could be done remotely, and I’d always find the best coffee shop in town and work from there. I didn’t really start drinking coffee until I was living in the Netherlands. The Trek Travel office was in their travel distribution center, which was in a warehouse.

They were very strict about their breaks and everybody gathered around the coffee machine, which was a restaurant-style machine that was never serviced and made really bad coffee. But it was more about the social aspect than the coffee.

After we moved back to the States, my wife and I lived in Colorado. I started to hang out more at coffee shops around town and prepare coffee at home more. When we moved to Madison, I thought we should open a coffee shop like we’d experienced in Colorado. Because we were cyclists, we hung out at places where people would start group rides or hang out and watch the Tour de France.

The first iteration was going to be a bike shop and café, but instead I opened a café next to a bike shop—the owner is someone I knew from Trek. We were both developing our business plans, realized we were duplicating each other’s work and decided it would make sense to find a space where we could co-habitate. He could focus on biking; I could do the coffee. His shop is The Cargo Bike Shop.

I learned the coffee end of things from our roaster, Intelligensia. They have a pretty large training lab in Chicago and trained me on the drink production end of things.

For the business end of things—which I’m still learning!—I took a small business development class. Half is writing your business plan and half is presentations from industry professionals you’ll need to deal with in the future. It was invaluable. It forces you to look at the things that aren’t fun, but that you need to deal with to survive like accounting and insurance.

What I love best about my shop is being a community hub: a place to see old friends and meet new ones. I thought we’d be a bike café, but we’ve really turned into a neighborhood café. If you live within a three-block radius, odds are I know what you’re going to order before you get to the counter!

We recently opened a second location in Paoli that has the same structure, right next to a bike shop (1 Oak Bicycles). Paoli is a very seasonal town that’s oriented to events, art galleries and shops. We’ll be closed until March as this is a slow time for Paoli, but open on a Wednesday-Sunday schedule soon.

My most memorable caffeine was in Japan. My wife, who’s an acupuncturist, had someone she wanted to study under so she arranged a trip to Kyoto. We found a coffee shop on Trip Advisor, Weekenders. If you look at the photo, it’s the most idyllic Japanese garden you’ve ever seen. And it IS that way—but it’s also in a parking lot in a very industrial area. We spent 30 minutes trying to find it!

It’s a tiny space with no indoor seating—there’s just a little bench out front. I had possibly the most carefully prepared cappuccino I’ve ever had—and maybe the best cup of coffee in my life. Everything the owner did was intentional. It wasn’t fast. It wasn’t efficient by any stretch.

That was our experience throughout Japan, no matter where we went. If we were in a train station, or a chain of coffee shops, the baristas were very intentional: there was no coffee to go, no batch brew. It was the traditional Japanese tea service philosophy applied to coffee.

My current caffeine of choice is a cortado. This is equal parts espresso and steamed milk. This drink has regional names. On the west coast it’s often called a Gibraltar. The “legend” is that a coffee place called Blue Bottle Coffee ordered the wrong size glass for cappuccinos. When customers asked what this drink was called, the barista looked at the bottom of the glass— “Gibraltar” was stamped across the bottom—and that became the name.

My favorite place for caffeine is Café Domestique! I like to come in early, make myself a cortado and just sit there with the lights off. It’s a good quiet time.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is my wife, and I get to do it all the time. It’s special but also regular. Over the years, we’ve shared a cup of coffee in many places. It’s our time to sit down, catch up and recover from the chaos of everyday life.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine. Everything!As small as “what’s for dinner” to larger problems like how to reopen the government.

If we could get people around the table talking about things in a civilized manner, that would be beneficial for everyone. With the right amount of coffee, I feel like I could get people to start communicating with one another. Coffee has been that conversation starter. It’s been the social tool that brings people from different s