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Online Fundraiser Seeks New Router for Pike Coffee Shop

by ARLnow.com May 31, 2011 at 10:11 am 5,453 62 Comments

Jason Gooljar, the technology director for a D.C.-based environmental non-profit, is on a mission.

Gooljar wants to raise $200 to get local, independent coffee shop Rappahannock Coffee & Roasting (2406 Columbia Pike) some new WiFi gear. It seems that the cafe’s existing wireless router is slow, outdated and can barely accommodate more than four simultaneous WiFi users. To remedy the situation, Gooljar is asking customers to make donations to help update the equipment.

“It’s a small coffee shop and the owners don’t make that much to be spending it on things like this but people are here all the time and we could benefit from a new router!” he wrote on ChipIn.com, a web site that helps users conduct grassroots fundraisers.

While we don’t doubt Gooljar’s sincerity — he said he’ll provide donors with a photo of him presenting the router to the store’s owners — we ask that potential contributors do their own due diligence before donating.

Photo via ChipIn.com

  • CrystalMikey

    Is he going to set up (the right way), too?

    • By right way do you mean having the WPA passkey set up? 🙂 Right now it’s an open signal.

  • Arlington

    No thanks. Recently, I was in there with a friend and noticed a man and a woman sitting together. The man had coffee and breakfast, the woman did not. There were only 2 other people in the shop.

    When the woman got up to leave, the owner bitched at her for not ordering anything and told her that she had better order something the next time she comes in.

    After witnessing that, I won’t be back.

    • doodly

      So people should have free WiFi at a coffee shop, without paying for anything? Maybe that’s why coffee shops have to ask for free routers.

      Hey, maybe the customers should buy coffee, or pay for their WiFi by the hour, so the shop can pay for a router. Nah, makes too much sense.

    • Josh S

      I’d love to see a transcript of this conversation. Methinks perhaps there is some exaggeration going on here.

      • Ren

        Totally agree.

        • Tabby

          I agree 100,000%.

    • TMP

      This is not the first time I’ve heard this sort of scenario about Rappahannock Coffee since they came under new management. I’m all for small business and locally owned, but seems to me as if they focused on providing the best coffee and customer service, it wouldn’t matter whether they have wi-fi or not.

      • av

        I live around the corner and will step foot in the place. The new owner is not very social, a bit rude and very slow. The worst part is the coffee is awful. I would love to see this place get it’s act together.

  • SoCo Resident

    I guess I will never understand the current need to be connected in a coffee shop. Maybe put down your laptop, etc, and actually interact with your fellow coffee drinkers, instead? From the owner’s perspective, why would you want to encourage someone to buy a cup of coffee, then sit for a long time on a computer taking up very valuable real estate. I think we’ve gone mad!

    • Hey c’mon now we do a lot of talking too! It’s a great third place as they call it and the shop has it’s regulars (me being a regular on the weekends). The place gets all kinds from the Internet surfers, to the students and people just going there to read.

      • Opie

        Lot of Craigslist surfing from there I bet.

    • Josh S

      Well, since most every coffee shop offers this nowadays and I haven’t noticed a rash of them going out of business, I think perhaps your analysis may need work.
      I myself have certainly found myself staying long enough to go back to the counter and order something else. Or to remember that – oh yeah, I need beans at home and buying a pound. If I wasn’t hanging out, I may not have made those extra purchases.
      Also, I have dim memories of cafes before the internet era also being filled with people nursing a cup for long periods of time while reading or talking or etc.
      I think it’s part of the business model.

      • doodly

        If the business model is so great, they wouldn’t need someone to beg for $200.

      • SoCo Resident

        Great example of a poor business model: the owner can’t even afford the $200! Josh S’ going back for a refill and buying a lb. of coffee doesn’t seem to be doing it. If you really want an example of “extreme coffee lingering,” go to Bailey’s Panera, kids sitting doing homework, guys there all day, and usually no seating for me after having spent a good buck for lunch. Given the rents in this area and high prices per square foot, I can’t imagine this is a good business model. Basically,just providing a place to “hang out” with free wi-fi.

  • Ben

    Meanwhile the internet at Java Shack is both fast and encrypted…..

  • Failed Again

    We should donate money from the Artisphere fund…Close the Artisphere and give the $200 to the coffee shop, I’m sure they have more customers than the Artisphere. Just sayin’!!!!!!!

  • Stan

    Someone explain to me why we should do a fundraiser to buy a $200 WiFi router for a for-profit retail store? If the coffee show owner wants people to come into the coffee shop, then the coffee show should pony up what is essentially pocket change. There is a reason Starbucks do so well – they follow the “third place” model. It is a destination where people like to go and relax for a few minutes, maybe read email, maybe read the newspaper (online). If the coffee shop doesnt want to invest $200 in the shop (be it a router, or tables, or chairs, or lights), why should we do it for him?

    • doodly

      Starbucks also charges for WiFi, though I think they are now giving you the first hour free or something like that.

      • MIke

        No, Starbucks wi-fi is now always free.

        • doody

          Cool. Maybe I’ll actually go there now.

    • Nooner

      Was thinking the same thing.

  • SaveDaveMcKenna

    New router? How about more bandwidth instead?

    • Aaron

      That was my first thought as well. Blaming the router without any evidence that it’s the problem makes no sense.

      If Rappahannock’s owners are like most chintzy indie coffee shops, they’re probably not paying their ISP for a commercial line. It would be funny if this well-intentioned effort ends up bringing the full corporate wrath of Comcast or Verizon down on the establishment.

  • Jim

    If the owners are really that strapped you could probably find a used business-class wifi router on Amazon or Craigs List for dirt cheap – much less than $200. Might not be the latest and greatest but you could probably find one that is reasonably current that would be an upgrade from what they have.

    • Thanks for the idea. I set $200 as the price because that’s what a new router usually hovers around more or less. If the router cost less than $200 –new or used–then obviously I’d try to return the difference or ask permission from everyone to donate the remainder to a charity I suppose?

      This is as much an experiment in local community fundraising for small projects, as it is wanting to help the owners of the coffee shop out. Sure they’re a for profit but for people in the community who frequent the place we have a certain attachment you could say.

      • Steve

        I like what you are doing Jason. Thanks for trying to make a positive contribution.

        • doody

          Have you donated, Steve?

  • meh..

    HA! How about we donate to hire a new owner and staff.. I avoid that place and it’s poor customer service. I hope a Starbucks opens up and puts them out of business…. harsh yes…but i’m done supporting “local business” regardless of how they actually treat their customers.

    • MIke

      Absolutely. I say no one should donate so this place shuts down. I’m a big supporter of local, independent business but if they can’t afford to upgrade their equipment it’s not because of competition–there is none–but because the place is poorly run and the coffee is pretty lousy. I hope that the changes on the Pike mean places like this get some serious competition which would drive out the weaker businesses.

    • Tabby

      I like the place but I think this idea is silly. If their profit margins are so slim that they can’t “afford” a $200 router, they’re obviously not doing well. Or, perhaps, they just don’t want to spend the money, Jason.

      And I’d prefer they spent it on hiring a cleaner for the disgusting bathroom.

  • charlie

    so let me get this straight…
    a business won’t upgrade it’s wifi to meet customer demands.
    this is the typical “lost cost opportunity” of a small business. you need to be normal to compete and be successful.
    and people wonder why so many small businesses fail. because they have misguided and foolish owners.

    • Let me just say I don’t know if they would not do it if customers asked them to. I just took it upon myself to create the chipin page because I know that they aren’t “rolling in the dough” and it would be a nice gesture from the community.

      • doody

        Better to put a donation jar in the coffee shop itself so people who are actually mooching on the free wifi can pony up.

        • Michael


        • Marc


      • charlie

        jason, it is a nice idea. thank you. but is it throwing money down a hole?

  • Stu Pendus

    Bunch of Cranky McCrankypants on here today.

    • meh..

      lol..not really.
      It is telling though…. says a lot about the poor reputation and business practices of Rappahannock.
      I applaud the idea and efforts of community fundraising, but i’d rather see it directed towards some of the more community friendly businesses along the Pike and elsewhere in Arlington County.

  • meh..

    BTW, there’s a router on Woot.com right now for $79
    What kinda super router is being eyed for $200????

  • Jim

    I do find some irony in this… Maybe the reason they can’t upgrade their equipment is because all their seats are taken up by a bunch of barnacles hogging up the limited free wireless they do have without buying anything?

    • me

      I was going to ask if the owners even want a new router. Maybe they are claiming they can’t afford one because they don’t want people camping out on the Internet all day.

      • jan

        I was thinking the same thing

  • Joe

    This is the link from Arlington County about the restaurants with more than $500 in delinquent meals tax liabilities as of 02-03-2011: http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/Treasurer/files/file73709.pdf

    Note that Rappahannock is nowhere to be found. Perhaps the owners of Rappahannock Coffee could afford the $200 router if they became delinquent on their meals tax obligations.

    Just Bob & Edith’s “I” (for $1,516.) and the defunct “II” (for $33,983.).
    Just like Front Page Grill in Ballston (for $46,522.).
    Just like Cold Stone Creamery in Ballston (for $13,959.).
    Just like Guarapo on Wilson Blvd. (for $13,566.).
    Just like Pike Grill (for $12,850.).
    Just like Greenberry’s Coffee on Wilson Blvd. (for $12,094.).
    Just like Boston Market on Columbia Pike (for $2,722.).

    Just sayin’, credit to Rappahannock for giving the tax dollars that support our schools, our parks, our police, our firefighting, etc.

    • Tabby

      A national chain like Boston Market is delinquent? Or is it a franchise?

    • doody

      Nice post, Joe. Good point.

    • CW

      Nice post. People often forget about the interest-free loans from the county that local restaurateurs like to take out with no ramifications.

    • John Fontain

      If the meals tax is 4 percent and Front Page is delinquent in the amount of $46,522, then they haven’t paid meals tax on about $1,163,000 worth of sales. This is tax money paid by customers to the restaurant which the restaurant is supposed to quickly remit to the County.

      How do these company’s get away with this? Does the County have any enforcement capabilities? I’ll bet if they yanked their business license the money would be turned over quick.

  • Pike Res

    This is truly unbelievable. I am a huge supporter of Pike businesses and of independent coffee shops. But I avoid Rappahanock like the plague because their coffee is terrible and I guarantee the service is slower than that router.

    I would love to see a successful, high-quality, independently owned coffee shop on the Pike. But to “donate” to a for-profit store because the owners are too cheap to upgrade? No thanks.

  • Relax Preppy

    They can get a Linksys WRT54G for $25 off of craigslist and throw Tomato firmware on it and be good to go…

  • Bender

    **I avoid Rappahanock like the plague because their coffee is terrible**

    Perhaps then there ought to be a fundraiser for them to buy better coffee?

    What’s that? Being able to buy better coffee ought to be included in the price of the coffee they sell?? And other capital expenditures and operating expenses should be covered in the price of the coffee and other things they sell??

    Don’t be silly.

  • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

    Nice list Joe and good point. Many of those businesses don’t offer wifi at all. I also know that many cash businesses don’t even bother to send in their reciepts to the County thus avoiding all taxes and pocketing an exta 10% profit.

  • Rick

    Buy district taco a better router the wifi in there sucks…. not as bad as the service but its still bad

  • ms

    i have been a customer at this coffee shop for 3 years now, never had an unpleasant experience but then i am always in there to buy something. never tried the internet though, seems like a lot of people are just whining here.

    i do have to say that not all small businesses are as friendly as these guys were at least to me. some of them do have an attitude.

  • Tacoman

    what’s wrong with Dist Taco? I alwas get great service, huge portions. They don’t skimp on the guacamole like Chipotle does. I swear, I’ve never known a place so tight wad anal about guac as chipotle is.

  • Southeast Ben

    I’ve enjoyed having coffee there, but taking up donations seems silly to me. It’s a perfectly good business expense if the owner was smart enough to realize that. Depreciate it over time and I think the owner could pony up the money.

  • Michael

    I am asking for money to buy a large latte at the coffee shop mentioned above (once the new upgraded router is installed… of course). Please donate to my fund: http://www.asuckerisborneveryminute.com

  • CW

    Ok, aren’t people kind missing the point here, which is that the owners never ASKED for a new router? Some random customer decided they needed it and went off on this quest…

  • SF

    HECK NO! This is the worst coffee shop I have ever been to. I would rather give 200 bucks and my 3 dollar donation a day to a competitor on the street that knew how to make a latte.

  • Marc

    Post a request on Free Cycle — someone pro’ly has one lying around ready to give away. More bandwidth with a commercial contract through Verizon or Comcrap is pro’ly the real need here…

  • Steve W.

    Holy crap. Is it the same router I installed in 2001? The most likely trouble is the DSL connection, not the router.

  • ArlForester

    A dumb idea to raise money for a for-profit business is news? Mmmkay.


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