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Aroma Joe’s spices up Thayer coffee scene

First RI location of New England-based franchise faced pandemic-related delays in opening

Aroma Joe’s supplies all of their beans from small farmers who would otherwise face financial difficulties.
Aroma Joe’s supplies all of their beans from small farmers who would otherwise face financial difficulties.

When looking for a cup of coffee on Thayer Street, University students can choose from Starbucks, Blue State or Bagel Gourmet. Now, a new storefront has entered the mix — Aroma Joe’s.

The coffee shop opened at 257 Thayer St. Monday, Sept. 27 and is part of a quickly growing New England chain. Franchise owners and Wayland Square residents Stephen and Anne Marie Lukin run another Aroma Joe’s in Raynham, Massachusetts. Their franchise is the first Aroma Joe’s in Rhode Island. Currently, there are 79 Aroma Joe’s locations nationwide.

The cafe opened just in time for National Coffee Day, which was on Sept. 29. Aroma Joe’s celebrated by handing out free 16-ounce coffees.

Behind the register, the back wall of the shop is lined with bottles containing different drink flavors such as caramel, coconut and Irish cream. 

Stephen Lukin said that they had been hoping to secure a location on Thayer and were now feeling “the excitement of bringing the brand here.” 

“I thought Thayer was a great spot,” he said. “It's really busy. There's a lot of students, a lot of different ideas. We just love it.”

Felicity Hade ’24 hadn’t planned to stop in the cafe, but got a coffee to escape the rain Monday. She said she appreciated the color scheme of the store. “I like the vibe of it, the aesthetic,” she said.

The staff were eager to recommend to customers the store’s specialty drinks, such as the Paris Toast latte — a coffee drink featuring maple, cinnamon and shortbread flavorings.

“We like to run Aroma Joe’s because it is all about personality,” Stephen Lukin said. “We don't have uniforms or name tags because we want people to be themselves.”

“It’s my second time here, and I think it’s good,” said Kaela Hines ’22. She especially enjoyed the breakfast sandwich and hash browns. “This place is cool, and I think it’s well priced,” Hines said. 

Stephen Lukin explained that they began working on the storefront in July 2021, but due to the pandemic, they experienced some delays with getting equipment, such as a pastry refrigerator and decorations. 

While Stephen Lukin is hopeful that Rhode Island’s vaccination rate will allow Aroma Joe’s to continue with in-person dining and ordering, the store also has a grab-and-go window they can use if restrictions tighten again. 

The Aroma Joe’s brand places a particular emphasis on fair trade and sustainability, Stephen Lukin explained. The company works directly with farmers to source their coffee beans and other ingredients internationally, he said.

“All of our beans are from very small farms” who may face financial trouble otherwise. Stephen Lukin said. Aroma Joe’s coffee is 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified, a designation of quality and sustainability determined by the nonprofit Rainforest Alliance. 

Stephen Lukin hopes to continue to open new Aroma Joe’s franchise locations throughout the Ocean State. 

“We are actively looking in Rhode Island,” he said.

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