Charlie Fishbein, Coffee Exchange Proprietor

Jonny Skye runs the Skye Gallery on Broadway in PVD. She came to RI in ‘87 from Oregon at the tender age of 17 with no money, and she didn’t know a soul. “I had a cup of coffee [at the Exchange] when it was a little place across the street. People used to literally line up around the corner on Brook Street by 7 in the morning. Charlie’s brother, Bill, came over and I asked, ‘Are you hiring?’” 
That’s how Skye first got inducted into the family. “Charlie and the Fishbein family quickly looked after me and took me in.  Everybody who works here – who comes here – he considers part of his family,” she says of Fishbein and the Exchange. “It’s always been a welcoming, eclectic place. I worked the counter at Coffee Exchange during the summer of 1989 and through this lens gained my first real love for the city.”
“He makes time to listen and talk with real presence. He has given me so much insight through some of the hardest times of my life, shared tears with the same passion as the laughter at the ridiculous absurdities of being a person. For a man over 70, running the longest-running, thriving coffee business for the past 35 years in Providence, his continued thirst for knowledge and compassion for people is simply inspiring. He values the relationship – refuses to sell coffee pre-packaged because it’s the old-time interaction across the bean counter that matters most. He is also very conscious about the realities of each person along the chain, from farmers to baristas, and makes progressive choices to ensure dignity and fair practices for all – organic, fair trade, coffee farmer co-ops. This is a man with a big heart. He is Providence,” says Skye
Charlie and his brother Bill also hold fundraisers, especially on New Year’s Day and National Coffee Day in September, to benefit the Coffee Trust, which they founded to help honey farmers, women entrepreneurs and impoverished farmers in Guatemala.
Lexi Neelis has been working at the Exchange as a barista for the past eight years and recently began leading their sustainability program while going to school. She says of Fishbein, “He’s not afraid to try anything. Charlie cares a lot about what he does and always puts the customer first. Also, he supports other local businesses and donates coffee to local non-profit events. He’s so generous, it’s taught me how to think about other people more.”
Ashley is a regular customer. “I’m here every day. Charlie is one of the most hard-working people and is dedicated to coffee. He knows everything about the beans, roasting and sourcing – from plant to your cup! We actually ship his beans to my family and friends in Wyoming because it’s that good!” She adds, “He is very thorough, always here with the staff creating ambiance.” – Alison O’Donnell
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