Good Karma at the Good Karma Café: Q&A with Owner David Arrell

It’s hard keeping track of all eco-friendly eateries popping up around Philadelphia. While we’re definitely down with lessening our carbon footprint, the trend is starting to reach the point of oversaturation — so much so that it’s probably easier to find a vegan panini than a real cheesesteak in certain Philly neighborhoods.

But, at the heart of the ‘organic-or-bust’ movement, there are a few places that have been cranking out delicious food since before the trend became a trend. With five and a half years of collective success under his belt, David Arrell fits that proverbial bill perfectly. We sat down with The Good Karma Café owner (and, dare we say it, “green guru” himself) to get some insight on how you stay “green” without losing that universal appeal.

AroundPhilly: When did you open Good Karma Café?

David Arrell: Good Karma 1, located at 22nd & Pine, opened 4 years ago, in the Spring of 2008.  Good Karma 2, located at 10th & Pine, opened 1.5 yrs ago, in the Fall of 2010. Both stores are open 7am – 10pm, 7 days a week.

AP: With “green” cafés popping up everywhere, what makes Good Karma Café so unique?

DA: Good Karma Cafe focuses on offering high-quality organic and fair trade certified coffee, creating a community-oriented meeting space, running on eco-friendly and sustainable practices, and doing it with exceptionally friendly baristas to make it all work.

AP: Can you list some of the eco-friendly services you provide at both of your locations? My personal favorite is, hands-down, the duel flushing option in the bathroom.

DA: Haha! The toilets get the most attention and accolades, but we also have tables made from recycled bamboo, our cups are made from plant-based compostable plastic, all the paints are no-VOC, and the floors are made of recycled rubber and limestone tile.  That’s a good start, but we also feature many other green friendly materials and practices.

AP: What is the atmosphere you are looking to achieve in the cafe?

DA: We strive to create a sort of bohemian-zen feel, without getting too far into the grunginess of some eco-oriented businesses and without getting too far into the contemporary minimalism side of the zen spectrum.  There is a Japanese term, “wabi-sabi,” that comes pretty close to describing the vibe of the stores, but we add a little funky music into the mix as well.

AP: What made you want to start a place like this?

DA: Good Karma Cafe came about as the answer to several questions.  First, I wanted the personal and professional parts of my life to line up in complete harmony and integrity. Second, I wanted to do something that would contribute positively to the planet, one person at a time, and one day at a time.  Thirdly, I wanted to create a space for people to come together that would foster a sense of community. Good Karma Cafe came about as a way to do all of that and more, and I haven’t looked back since!

AP: Lastly, can you tell us what you offer clientele on a daily basis?

DA: Well, At Good Karma 1, we offer all kinds of coffee, espresso, and teas as well as a variety of bagels, pastries, cookies, and other light fare.  Seasonally, we offer delicious Hale & Hearty soups that are extremely popular.  At Good Karma 2 we offer all of that, plus fresh made bagel sandwiches (egg, bacon, cheese, spinach, etc…) as well as lunch items such as soups and salads.  Both Good Karmas have outdoor patio space in the back that are designed to be like a zen garden urban oasis, and Good Karma 2 has a side room that we make available for group meetings, such as meet-up events, and also features live music performances at least once a month.  We will be significantly developing our live music program, as well as creating a catering menu as the Spring approaches.  Hopefully, Good Karma 3 will be coming along by the Fall!

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Michelle Mass

Michelle is a West Chester University graduate originally from the fist-pumping area of the Jersey Shore. Luckily, she was able to shed her ways, and has been a Pennsylvania resident for 8 years. With her love for reality shows, vodka-diets, writing, and the city of brotherly love, there is always a good story on the tip of her tongue.

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