Whenever I’m traveling, I love checking out coffee shops, soaking up the unique ambiance, people-watching and, of course, snagging a good cup of coffee.
A coffee shop that stands out in recent memory is Headquarters, a tiny sliver of space on Charlotte Pike in Nashville, TN. I met a sweet young friend there last summer for a cup of stout coffee loaded with cream and sugar, and a nice, long chat. I like that the proprietor says she is “committed to carrying only local vendors, because we believe that doing so creates jobs, revenue and our neighbors’ success.”
That coffee shop visit is memorable as much for the company as for the coffee.
My recent Chicago coffee stops were about as different from one another as they could be. The first was discovered on an early morning walk. A quaint corner shop on Lincoln Avenue, Red Eyes Coffee is run by a very cute Asian couple. The shop appears to be a popular hang-out for writers and students. The owner was occupied in the back when I stepped in, but a call-out from one of his customers brought him scurrying to the front, where he poured me a delicious cup of dark, rich Guatemalan brew and wished me a good day. If I’d had the time and my laptop, I believe I could have spent a couple of pleasantly productive hours in a quiet corner. Instead, I pulled a chair up to an iron table in the outdoor seating area and watched other early morning walkers.
My second stop was a quick “fuel-up” before my drive home. Just down Lincoln from Red Eyes, this chain with a well-known name was chosen for convenience — which is about the only positive take-away from that visit. When I asked the kid behind the counter to make a change in my order, he expressed dissatisfaction, then made the change without adjusting my price. The lady behind me in line leveled an impatient gaze in my direction while I waited for the frozen drink the “barista” was quickly blending up behind the counter. It was crowded and noisy. Even if I hadn’t been in a hurry, I wouldn’t have been inclined to stay.
Working at my favorite local coffee shop, I’ve come to appreciate how important it is to offer not just great coffee, but also an atmosphere that’s conducive to conversation, contemplation or creativity. Throw in convenience, and you get the perfect blend.