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Downtown Credo Coffee

706 W. Smith St.

There’s a whole, well, credothat goes along with the Downtown Credo coffeehouse in College Park, centered around rejecting apathy and despair and making the world a better place by engaging with the community. It’s a nonprofit coffee joint where there are no prices, the menu is spare and the proceeds are used to pay the people who grow the coffee (farmers in the Quiché region of Guatemala) a living wage for their work. A noble effort, certainly, but to turn this do-business-to-change-the-world philosophy into a sustainable model, you’ve got to give people (not just the ones who support your cause) a reason to keep coming back.

That part shouldn’t be a problem for Credo, which serves a satisfyingly dark-roasted brew that works well in both espresso drinks (lattes, macchiato, cappuccino) and as a straight-up by-the-cup coffee, as well as a handful of teas and a small assortment of pastries from Baby Pie Baked Goods. The ambience is as simple and satisfying as the menu, all clean lines and comfortable modern furniture with just enough embellishment to make the space appealing, but not so much that it feels cluttered or garish.

If this were a traditional for-profit coffee store, we wouldn’t wonder a bit about its viability, but the cynic in us wonders what the long-term prospects are for a “pay what you will” donation-based business … because that’s exactly what this is. Order your coffee, pay what you think it’s worth and profits go to a good cause. (If you’re really concerned about whether you’re paying enough, there is a laminated “suggested donations” menu with ballpark figures you can use for reference.) Panera Bread has opened a handful of “Panera Cares” stores across the country based on this model, and the company says it’s been successful so far. We hope it works for Credo, too, because this could easily become our favorite go-to coffee spot.

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