LuLu DeCarrone prefers her shop to be full of customers engaging in lively conversation than silently tapping away at their laptops.
LuLu DeCarrone prefers her shop to be full of customers engaging in lively conversation than silently tapping away at their laptops. - 

Tess Vigeland: Walk into most coffee shops these days and, well, it's not really about the coffee anymore, is it? It's about the tap-tap-tap of laptop keyboards. That goes double and triple -- latte? -- in college towns, where students and professors hang out for hours, hunched over their computers, nursing a lone cup.

So in New Haven, Conn., coffee house owner Lulu DeCarrone did something daring a few years back: She pulled the plug.


LuLu DeCarrone: Hi, who can I help?

Man: I'll have a coffee and a whole-grain bagel.

Worker: Small, medium or large.

DeCarrone: I'm Lulu DeCarrone and we are in New Haven. I own this little coffee shop that I've had for 21 years.

It happened around three or four years ago. One afternoon, I was standing behind the counter and I allowed laptops for a while. And there were four tables, and four people sitting with laptops there. And I remember thinking, "This is like a crypt. I don't like the feel of it." Well, two ladies came in a little bit later and they were having such a good time. They were old friends, they haven't seen each other in a long time and they were laughing and just carrying on. And the people who were sitting on the laptops kept glaring at them. And I made the decision right then and there. I thought I would rather lose my business and sell pencils out of a hat in front of the British Art Museum, than have this atmosphere in my store.

I don't think people realize the damage they do economically by taking up a whole table for so long and being forced sometimes to buy something.

DeCarrone to customers: Hey guys! How are you?

I thought, "Oh my God, maybe no one will come. Maybe I'll lose it." And I swear to you, that I was willing to do that. But it worked in reverse. I am the absolute opposite of what Starbucks does, and I'm very happy about it.

It's become like Mecca for people who are disgusted. I never expected this. This has blown my mind; I never thought that would happen. I get compliments every single day. So I think that's what it's given me: Not a big bank account, certainly not driving a fancy car -- but it has given me something that's much harder to get, joy.

Lulu DeCarrone: Coffeehouse owner Lulu DeCarrone.