The house at 1189 W. 37th Pl. looks like any other red-brick home with a white roof. However, twice a month since Sept. 5, the house’s yard serves as a pop-up coffee shop with a cardinal-and-gold flag reading “Cup of Troy” hanging above the porch.
A hand-drawn “Fight On” sign on the lawn welcomes USC students, friends and neighbors to Cup of Troy, where they can purchase fresh baked goods, homemade coffee and specialty drinks from a rotating menu.
“The first time I was there, it was just a table, coffee and a screen,” said Xavier Bradley, a senior music industry major who said he usually drives by to pick up his coffee. “The next time I came, they had the speaker and started playing music. The next time they started adding a couple of chairs, some bleachers and a new sign. You pull up and it’s like a new atmosphere.”
Co-founded by USC students Shawn Tran and Joseph Litwin, Cup of Troy is a student-run coffee shop the founders said is committed to creating a sense of community and connection amid the social distancing and remote instruction brought by the pandemic. The shop currently accepts in-person pickup of online orders placed via Square, as well as walk-in orders with an extra fee of 50 cents per item.
“We plan on [opening] it twice a month and we’ve done that three times now,” Tran told Annenberg Media. “It’s been way better than we could have ever expected. We’ve gotten around 25 to 35 orders and it really peaked this past weekend.”
Tran said the entire coffee shop started with the idea of having “a fancy espresso machine” for the house they rent together.
“We were initially inspired when all of us here at our house were first moving in and talking about stuff we can do now that we’re living together,” Litwin said.
After coming up with the name Cup of Troy, they had one of their housemates design the logo and “things are just rolling from there,” said Tran, a former Peet’s Coffee employee.
In addition to conceptualizing its operation, Tran and Litwin also run Cup of Troy’s social media accounts, including an Instagram where they announce the shop’s next pop-up date and update its specialty drinks menu.
“Everyone here helps on the opening days,” Litwin said, adding that one of their housemates who loves baking makes the fresh pastries.
Mitchell Alcoser, a senior studying music industry who lives a block away, said he knows most of the Cup of Troy crew through the marching band and was “pretty quick to head over” when the shop opened.
“The fact that I can swing by a house outside with a lot of spread-out space and it’s just a quick chance to say ‘hi,’” Alcoser said. “I feel like I’m getting some human interaction.”
Bradley said Cup of Troy offered a “USC hangout spot” under social distancing guidelines. Bradley said this came at a time when he felt isolated from his peers, as he said students typically log off Zoom right after each class.
“Every time I go to Cup of Troy, I find a bunch of USC students and I always make sure to say ‘hi’ to everybody,” Bradley said. “It’s literally at [their] house, so it feels a lot more homey. Every person that’s a part of it is a USC student. They all know me and I know them.”
Tran said he put a lot of thought into creating the sense of “going to a local coffee shop and knowing that barista that knows your order.”
“The experience of walking up to a house and getting cafe-quality coffee is something that can’t really be recreated at any local coffee shop here,” he added.
Tran and Litwin said they plan to have a DJ for a two-hour set at their next opening on Oct. 24. Their goals for the future include more event-based openings and introducing new ways for people to experience Cup of Troy through live music and coffee tastings.
“It’s just a good community,” Alcoser said. “Good friends, good vibes, good coffee. Oh, great coffee, great everything.”