I was never really a coffee drinker. I never understood the whole coffee experience. I knew people who wouldn’t wake up to the world until they had coffee, but I still never understood. I always thought “Let’s have a cup of coffee,” translated to, “I want to pitch a pyramid scheme to you.”
My first real experience with the coffee connection was during my time living in Canada. For those of you who know anything about the country Canadians call home, it could be referred to as “coffee is king.” Tim Horton’s, to be exact, is this king. Canadians live and die by a cup of Tim Horton’s. I fell victim to the coffee craze there and still swear there was some sort of an addictive drug in that coffee! It literally made my SUV turn in the drive-thru line wrapped around the building onto the street after dropping the kids off to school, before soccer practice, or any excuse during the day I could find myself in that line. Without even being aware of where I was until I was handing the cashier at the window my debit card, until I had that precious liquid gold in my hand, I never understood the power of coffee. My experience in Canada was much more than the taste of the coffee – it was the social aspect of talking with friends over coffee, sharing stories, making plans, and dreaming of warm weather. It was the smile and a memory delivered with every cup of coffee in Canada. This is where I began to appreciate coffee but could never duplicate that taste upon returning to live in the states.
Once I returned and started back to work I realized the social aspect of sharing a cup of coffee was the same here in the states, just not as good of a flavor. The two country’s coffees did not share the same taste, but they did share the same meaning. I didn’t have the opportunity to have business relationships in Canada but sure made some amazing friends and shared many cups of coffee with those I still cherish today. So I had to adjust. The coffee craze here in our area has grown and coffee shops are popping up everywhere. I personally find myself setting up meetings and conducting business in local coffee shops. I have met some of the most interesting people in coffee shops. It is like an office away from the office. A place where you can conduct business, relax and share a cup of coffee… even if you don’t like the coffee.
I never really understood how they make money. On an average visit I may spend $7 on two cups of coffee – one for me and one for my client. Sometimes if we run over on a meeting and food is on our minds, I splurge on a slice of pound cake or a muffin and water. Okay, $10.00 and we stay half the day working out details of the next big marketing campaign or roll out the most creative direct mail project. This is what I personally get out of the coffee shop, but coffee shops are so much more. Coffee shops are social places where people with different stories come together on
Independent coffee shops are positive markers of a living community. They function as social spaces, urban offices, and places to see the world go by. Communities are often formed by having spaces in which people can have casual interactions, and local and walkable coffee shops create those conditions, not only in the coffee shop themselves, but by those who frequent them.
Coffee shops are unlike other community assets in that they enable us to mingle with strangers in ways that we might not in restaurants, to meet a wider range of people than we would in a bar, to linger in ways that we don’t at the grocery store, or to people-watch with an ease that would be awkward almost anywhere else.
I personally frequent Floyd and Blackie’s, SPLAT!, Caravan, and my newest favorite located close to my office, Zoe’s. These coffee shops offer so much more than a cup of coffee. They offer a place to connect on many different levels, and they offer a connection to the community. I value this connection and its importance. I ask that you support your local coffee shops. They offer character to our community; they are an important part of “local” and one we should embrace. Visit your local coffee shop and enjoy your favorite brew. Although I will hang on to the taste of Tim Horton’s and my Canadian coffee experience, I am and will continue to be a coffee shop supporter in my local town with business deals and relationships built on coffee shop connections right here in the place I call home.
What’s your favorite coffee shop story? This may just be the newest feature in Gaston Alive!. Until next time, pour yourself a cup of your favorite flavor. Better yet, order it at your local favorite coffee shop.