Winning Coffee Co. has been an Albuquerque establishment for 20 years. It’s a daily routine for students, professors, street folks, laptop nomads and newspaper-reading, life-advice-giving old townies. It’s home to a regular pop-up bookshop (Bradley’s Books), a rotating gallery that features local artists, a punk rock open mic night, countless local bands’ shows and every other kind of event you can imagine. It’s also my favorite place to nurse a hangover with some black coffee, eat a breakfast burrito and run into everyone I know.
Now, Winning Coffee is going through some changes. Don’t worry—they’re not putting in TVs or selling out to some corporate overlord. In fact, they’re becoming even more punk rock, if that’s possible. They’re becoming a worker-owned cooperative.
After several months of taking a financial beating due to the ART construction along Central Ave., the current owner of Winning, Chris Jacobsen, decided that it was time for him to get out of the coffee shop business. When he told the staff that he was considering selling or closing down the shop, they were distraught—and immediately started looking for alternatives. “We started reading up on worker collectives and cooperatives,” says Matt Plante, an employee (and owner-to-be) at Winning. “We approached [Jacobsen] and asked if he would give us a chance to find an investor to keep the coffee house in its true form. He was so into the idea, he offered to be our investor and help us transition into a full blown worker co-op.”
Of course, this change won’t happen overnight. The staff at Winning are hard at work drawing up bylaws and sorting out what their organization will look like. “We hope to be functioning as an independent workers co-op by January 2018, under a lease to be paid off within 5 years,” says Plante. It won’t be an easy time paying off that lease, but worthwhile things are rarely easy. We all just need to stop by the shop a little more often to chip in with our latte purchases.
To us, the many and varied patrons of Winning Coffee, the transition into a worker’s co-op will likely not register as much of a change at all. They’ll tweak the food and drink menus a bit, but otherwise, most things will continue on as they have. The workers know they have a good business model and a good shop, and they don’t want to mess with a good thing.
“We are setting up the cooperative so that we will be here for generations to come,” says Plante. “We’re looking to keep the coffee house community-minded and a vital part of the University Heights for the next 60 years.”