There's a coffee shop I frequent, it's been a year now that I've patronized them. On reflection, the people who work there have influenced my coffee journey.
My friend John took me there when I first got to this country, his excitement was contagious. My experience every time for the last year and a half since John bought me a coffee there has been consistent. So much so, when I travel, I try to check out coffee shops that locals enjoy.
My wife and I used to talk about opening up a philosophy cafe when we retired from the humdrum of corporate life. With tables themed by different philosophers, and an option for frequent patrons to be a coffeelosopher. Where they subscribe and forever have a personalized mug of their favourite philosopher on the wall behind the register, ready for them when they decide to have a coffer and stay for a few hours.
As research for this future shop, I used to keep a small user experience journal, of the coffee shops I visited, to better understand the things I notice about the place when I first get in. The smell, the people in there, what they're doing, how easy it is to find the menu, then read it, whether the baristas looked up, nodded or locked eyes for an instant, did they smile?
I'm not a coffee snob, I mix in milk and sugar. I am however, a connoisseur of experiences, and coffee shops are one of the most inexpensive experiences you can have at a physical retail space. What's wonderful about it is that it can last all of 5 mins, or a few hours. There aren't many spaces that allow for that kind of human interaction.
I made a habit of being friendly with the baristas, and they've been kind and welcoming in return. The manager, young, well trimmed and with a wide grin, shared the kind of footfall they get, which was an eye popping 30k customers a day. Location matters of course, but considering all they had was coffee, and some tiny baked bites, it's still remarkable.
The manager said the difference between their place and the average Seattle mermaid shop, is the quality of their coffee, and the quality of their service. It needs to be equally balanced. You can't have coffee good service without good coffee, and people are starting to understand what's good and what isn't, and they're voting with their feet.
It's also good business, with just a few stores, they were able to clear tens of millions in profit in one year, and their profitability is almost double the Seattle mermaid's. With the owner clearing 5% from each store, it has my barista friend convinced he's got to strike it alone. He's got the location, he's found some farmers, and I get to taste a special crop of coffee very soon.
The time I spent with this person reminded me of two quotes by Seth Godin.
"I think everything is made not born, and that makes people uncomfortable because it puts them on the hook and I truly believe it."
"Money is a story, once you have enough to buy beans and rice, and to take care of your family and other things, money is a story and you can tell yourself any story you want about money and it's better to tell yourself a story about money that you can happily live with"
I'd rather not identify this person any further, because their drive and vision was refreshing; all the more because they definitely did not have the privilege, and access to capital, that a lot of my readers do.
If you're a coffee connoisseur, remind me, and I'll let you know when their store opens up. It'll be in a magical place.
August 14, 2019