Saturday, July 31, 2010


For the last 3 1/2 years, my morning routine has been the same. Up at 5 a.m. Take dog out for a quick pee. Feed the cat. Off to the gym for an hour of torture. Then the reward: a stop on the way back home at the neighborhood coffee shop for a lovely hot latte.

But as of Monday, my routine will be disrupted, because my coffee shop is closing.

It's not a surprise, really. The proprietor and her barista son operated it on their own, offering really good coffee and delectable treats baked fresh every morning. It's a labor-intensive endeavor, and even at $3.50 a latte and $2 a muffin, it would be tough to generate the volume to make the numbers work. Which apparently they didn't.

It's hard to watch someone's dream dismantle, and their routines are clearly far more disrupted than mine.

But still.

I'll miss more than the latte. I'll miss the fact that I never needed to remember "tall skinny grande" whatever. All I had to do was show up and my order was placed. No thinking required.

I'll miss the fellow coffee shop congregants, about whom I know both very little and a whole lot. Jeannie, who has a bulldog named Louie, a husband named Randy, a mother with health issues and a left-of-center take on political issues. Eric, principal of an elementary school, and his wife, Marie, who likes her bagel with cream cheese. Susie, who walks for 45 minutes before her daily caffeine fix. Philomena from Ireland.

I don't even know the last names of any of these people but I know intimate details of their lives from the pre-dawn snippets they share as they, too, have made this place part of their daily routines.

Mostly I'll miss the fact that I could count on all of this to be there every day to anchor my morning.

All the coffee shop patrons were there today, the final day of operation, getting one last brew and freshly baked scone or cinnamon roll. Bidding farewell not just to the coffee shop owner and her son, but also to the fleeting yet intimate relationships they, too, have formed over their daily ritual.

How attached we get to people and things that play even a small, but daily, supporting role in our lives. And how disquieting it is when something beyond our control upsets the routine we have come to depend on.

There are other coffee shops in the neighborhood, none so convenient or (in my opinion) to my particular taste. But after awhile, I'll form a new routine, meet a new cast of characters and find comfort in something else I can count on. Until I can't.


Chris Ronan said...

We have a habit of getting hooked on TV shows that fewer than 10 other people watch. Inevitably, the network pulls the show and our routine is out of whack.

Similar to what you're saying, except with TV characters instead of real people.

Diane McCaffrey said...

Your coffee shop example is so similar to the examples we live everyday at work when we hear from our one-store retailers who just can't make ends meet any more. The big boxes (and big coffee shops) are getting bigger, and the smaller, more unique shopping places are being even more scarce. I suppose it's all dollars and cents at the end of the day, but I agree that it makes it hard to ever really feel comfortable depending on anything in the commercial world.

Linda said...

Thanks for the comments! Which come on the heels of having just this evening read something about how there's no mass marketing any more, it's all micro/niche.

So... the tv programming and the small businesses that appealed to small but highly engaged niche audiences disappear, just as the ever-bigger mass enterprises try to find thousands of niche audiences to engage. Makes no sense to me.

Meanwhile, on day 3 without my morning latte reward, I remain a significantly unhappy camper.

Anonymous said...

Your post made me think of all the Brookside businesses that I miss - especially the Brookside Book Shop (great selections & conversations with Roy and Sandy) and Bob Arfstein's exuberance at the (Old) Dime Store. I loved having little Euston's Hardware right in the neighborhood, and the routine of taking my young sons to the barber shop (it's still there, but I'm not) with its friendly barbers and big old lazy dog. I even miss the Texaco station where I used to buy gas.

Patty M.