The dream of Cups started in Italy. It was in Italy that Janice and Dennis Cameron’s love for coffee grew into a passion that they wanted to bring home to Mississippi. Now after 30 years, 11 cafes, and countless memories, Cups continues to connect coffee lovers to classic Italian espresso. We spoke with our founder, Janice Cameron, to get the scoop on all things Cups, and celebrate our 30th anniversary.
“My husband and I are both Italian, so we both grew up with coffee being an essential part of every meal,” Janice said. “After the wedding, we made plans to travel–Italy being first on our list. During our trip, we visited as many espresso shops as we could. And, that’s where our inspiration for Cups comes from–a love of our heritage and of coffee.”
Janice and her husband, Dennis, founded Cups on July 31, 1993, in Jackson, Mississippi. At that time, coffee houses weren’t a common occurrence in the city.
“We purchased Cups from a small business that had been in town for about a year. We were excited to continue the love of coffee in our own way,” Janice said. “When we started Cups, there really weren’t any coffee houses in the area. There were a few coffee franchises, but no coffee houses. We were the first in the region–and we did it because we thought it was a great opportunity to bring espresso to the city.”
Cups offered Jacksonians a coffee experience that wasn’t around at the time– a local connection to Italian espresso, Southern art, and music performed by artists in the area. Being an artist herself, Janice knew the importance of having a creative outlet in the community and incorporated that into Cups through live music and commission-free display options for visual artists.
“We hosted live music for the first five years, and that gave young artists a chance to play and get their start,” Janice said. “Whoever wanted to come and play could come and play. It was a wonderful time!”
In addition to supporting the unique sound and look of its neighborhood, each cafe was purposefully designed to reflect its surrounding community.
“We’ve always allowed the owners or managers of our company stores to be creative when designing their space. Of course, we want all of our cafes to be welcoming and inviting, but the only thing we require is that we serve the best coffee,” Janice said.
And the coffee–Cups’ trademark–is also centered on community, especially when it comes to developing new flavored coffees and drinks. Each season brings a new opportunity for Cups’ creative team to come together and talk coffee, flavor, and everything in between. Janice says the process is dynamic, creative, and also a lot of fun:
“We come together and talk about what we think might be great for the season–we talk to our managers as well as our owners to hear their ideas. We look to see what people enjoy–what’s going on in the food world. Then, our team will create drinks and bring them to us to try. Then we decide. It’s a process that involves the whole Cups community and is a lot of fun,” Janice said. “This season, we’re really excited about our Spumoni latte. It was created by one of our managers at Cups in Madison and is absolutely delicious with strawberry, chocolate, and cherry.”
What’s more, these mouth-watering flavors, designed specifically for your palette, are only made better by Cups’ focus on serving premium locally roasted coffee.
“We roast our own beans in small batches every week so that each time you stop by to get a cup of coffee or grab a bag of beans, it’s fresh. We use small-farm coffee beans for the best flavor,” Janice said. “And, we work closely with our roaster and supplier to get the best coffee. My roaster has worked with us for over 20 years, so we’re very dedicated to providing the best beans we can source.”
Janice said that she looked forward to seeing Cups continue to adapt to the needs of local artists and coffee lovers with each passing year. She also looks forward to enjoying her go-to café breve or mocha and getting inspired by the local art. Above all, though, she is grateful. Grateful to all the customers, baristas, and coffee lovers that make Cups feel like home. At the end of our chat, she had only this to say:
“Thank you for 30 years in this community!”