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Corner Perk Cafe's Customers Pay It Forward

Jan 15, 2012
Originally published on January 15, 2012 5:37 pm

At first glance, the Corner Perk Cafe in Bluffton, South Carolina seems like a regular neighborhood cafe, but in 2010, a customer's spontaneous act set it apart.

Thirty-year-old Josh Cooke, the owner of the Corner Perk describes when a woman came in one day and left a large bill.

"She comes in and says, 'Here's a $100, I just want to leave this for the next so and so people that come in and get drinks just to let them know, you know, that somebody was wanting them to have a great day and just to let them know to pay it forward," Cooke tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz.

At $1.95 a cup, the $100 bought an afternoon worth of coffee — and puzzled reactions.

"I had to constantly tell them, 'No, you know, the cash is sitting right here on the counter," Cooke says. "Somebody literally walked in and left money to pay for your coffee."

Since then, the anonymous customer has donated seven to eight more times in the past two years. On December 29th, Josh posted the news of her most recent visit on his Facebook page and word spread quickly in the small community and others began to do the same.

The most recent act of generosity happened a week ago and Josh hopes that it won't be the last.

"We just want people to continue to pay it forward in any way — whether that's helping somebody with their electric bill or you know, filling up somebody's car
with gas," Cooke says. "It's really nice to have a kind thought or you know, some sort of gesture to let people know that they're going to be okay."

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GUY RAZ, HOST:

Sometimes a small simple act of kindness can change the world or, in the case of Bluffton, South Carolina, a community.

JOSH COOKE: My name is Josh Cooke, and I own the Corner Perk Café in Bluffton, South Carolina.

RAZ: Josh grew up in Bluffton, but he left to go to college and live in the big city for a while. It was Atlanta. Two years ago, he returned to Bluffton to open up Corner Perk Café.

COOKE: When you come into the coffee shop, you usually are going to recognize somebody there because it's a neighborhood place.

RAZ: In 2010, one of his regular customers did something out of the ordinary.

COOKE: And she comes in and says, here's $100. I just want to leave this for the next so and so people that come in and get drinks just to let them know, you know, that somebody was wanting them to have a great day and just to let them know to pay it forward.

RAZ: To pay it forward. A cup of coffee at Corner Perk costs $1.95, so that $100 lasted...

COOKE: You know, it lasted probably from, say, 10 in the morning till maybe three in the afternoon.

RAZ: Free coffee for everyone coming in.

COOKE: We got all kinds of reactions. Most people, we had to, like, take the time to explain the whole story of what actually took place because they're like, no, you're just trying to give me a cup of coffee to grow your business. And I had to constantly tell them, no, you know, the cash is sitting right here on the counter. Somebody literally walked in and left money to pay for your coffee.

And so it's really fun when you're the barista working because the tips just go up because everybody's feeling generous.

RAZ: Including that anonymous donor. She keeps coming back.

COOKE: She's done it probably seven or eight times in the past two years, but it had been quite a while that she had actually done it until just before the start of the new year this year.

RAZ: Josh posted the news of her most recent visit on his Facebook page and word spread quickly.

COOKE: Several other people in the community heard about it and someone who had been the recipient of her gift decided that they wanted to give $20 one morning, last Thursday. And then a few hours later, another guy comes in, which had been never been to the coffee shop as far as I know, and left another $100 and just asked, is this the place where they do that? And that he wanted to do the same. And he turned around and left. He didn't even buy a drink.

RAZ: That last act of kindness happened just a week ago.

COOKE: We just want people to continue to pay it forward in any way, whether that's helping somebody with their electric bill or, you know, filling up somebody's car with gas. You know, there's so much, sort of sadness and depression in the world today. It's really nice to have a kind thought or, you know, some sort of gesture to let people know that it's all going to be OK.

RAZ: That's Josh Cooke. He's the owner of Corner Perk Cafe in Bluffton, South Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.