Vigilante Coffee Co.- The Story Behind College Park’s Favorite Local Coffee Shop
By Emma Schmalz
November 20, 2022
Image Credit: Emma Schmalz for The Campus Trainer
Indie rock music plays over the loudspeaker as customers fill each table and sip on their lattes, espressos or iced coffees in the Vigilante Coffee shop location.
The atmosphere at Vigilante Coffee Company in College Park is one full of natural light, plants and Walking Dead-themed merch. Since opening in 2018, founder, Chris Vigilante, has been grateful for the College Park community and all it has provided for his small business.
Students appreciate the vibe of the Vigilante store and spend time doing work, hanging out with friends and grabbing a bite to eat in the small but cozy space.
“Their interior aesthetic is calming and clean and flows throughout the whole building,” said Grace Monacelli, a sophomore public policy major, “I got a maple spice latte there last year and I still think about it to this day.”
Even the staff enjoys the atmosphere the store provides: “It’s very friendly, very welcoming,” said Victoria Cantalice, a barista who works at the College Park location.
Melina Parsi, a sophomore criminology and communications major, said “The atmosphere is super cozy and the drinks are delicious. I like that there is a small, more local coffee shop that is easily accessible for students to go to that’s not Starbucks.”
Glenn Roessler, father of Vigilante and special events coordinator for the business, expresses his gratitude for the unique environment a college town provides for the shop.
“I get contacted constantly, you know, five or six different emails from the organizations that want support from Vigilante Coffee for one cause or the other. And they're all great causes. And at College Park, obviously, 98% of the requests that we receive for College Park are from different college organizations,” Roessler said.
Like many other small businesses, Vigilante Coffee is not immune to today’s current economic climate. Students have been noticing the uptick in prices.
“I think that their coffee is overpriced for what it is,” said Azariah Sheth, a junior business major. Monacelli said something similar: “A bit overpriced but the quality of the drinks is good.” The price of Vigilante’s coffee seems higher due to today’s economic climate.
Roessler explained that since the pandemic, small businesses all across the country have had to reevaluate their menu prices because the cost of every single item used in the store has gone up.
“Everything that you see around you has gone up in price immensely,” said Roessler, “ So your profit margins get smaller and smaller as inflation goes up. So it's a tricky balancing act.”
There are currently three Vigilante Coffee Company locations: Hyattsville, College Park and Oceanside, Calif. The Oceanside store will be celebrating its one-year anniversary this upcoming January and Vigilante say that even though he is not trying to rush anything, there are big plans for the company in the future.
“We have additions to do stuff in Europe and Japan. And beyond that, and so you'll probably see us talk a few more down in the United States in the next few years. But our long term goal was to take it international as well,” said Vigilante.
Vigilante mentioned a lot of his journey of founding his business felt like “serendipity.” He dropped out of school, and while in Hawaii, learned the craft of bean roasting and coffee.
“Maybe I should find something I'm passionate about that would make me feel happy, as opposed to making money,” said Vigilante. “I couldn't find a job or an internship that would one day make me money and so I stepped into it. Kind of pure luck and serendipity.”
Navigating today’s business world is risky for small businesses. Still, Vigilante says that they have grown due to not racking up high amounts of debt, putting passion into long-term projects and taking things slow.
Vigilante is very thankful for all of the store's customers, which is the reason his stores have been able to thrive: “And also having that core audience that's really committed to the work we do, has enabled us to stay afloat.”