Coffee smells like freshly ground heaven, said writer Jessi Lane Adams.
I think she is right. And, might I add, paradise is regularly experienced at Coffea in Soux Falls, S.D. From the best "coffee" anywhere, to the welcoming atmosphere of staff, to the comfortable black chairs near its fireplace, everything about Coffea is inviting, homey if you will. Regardless of weather, I traverse through snow and rain to get there every morning.
Coffea is my escape; but coffee lovers everywhere have their own place that becomes their second home. Grabbing a coffee at that place is a rite of routine every morning. With its largest paintings and unique lighting, Coffea is "cool" and warm. And, how many coffee houses do you know shares its space with a wine business?
It is there, you melt to the sweet aroma of the coffee and a welcoming environment to do business or perhaps relax and socialize. As you walk in, you stroll up to the front counter to order a latte, au lait or whatever is your favorite coffee drink, and always a blueberry muffin or scone. Then, you walk straight to your seat by the fireplace or a corner oversized chair to soak in the ambiance of place. This coffee shop effect is addictive - but my what a sweet addiction.
As you shed your coat, lay down your blackberry or iphone and open up a novel or your computer, you can't help but glance up and capture the landscape of those gathered in paradise.
A college student is focused on the why and wherefores of biology with a 1,000 page text flopped open as he scratches ink onto a yellow legal pad. The quiet chatter of a book club, emit serious tones intermingled with laughter and clattering of cups to the wooden tables. A young woman in professional attire takes a sip from her latte as she studies the web design, looks up again for something to click and back into her creative world she slips. There is the lone wolf, a guy in a suit without a tie, sipping from his mug, waiting on someone or soaking in the coffee shop effect before another nearby meeting. There are two women, seated near the fire, socializing about their lives as their daughters play a card game. Two older men, one with an implement hat and plaid shirts with jeans and another with the USD cap and hunters vest over a white turtleneck, discuss the weather and how this season seems unusual but similar and then they fall into a discussion about the U.S. economy. Of course.
Indeed the coffee house effect. It grabs a lot of us and it is defined by a group mentality while at the same time, a private personal time.
It is where people congregate to do their thing - whatever that thing is.
Eyes wander and sometime meet as the gaze draws friendly smiles, sometimes a wink. Others are deep into thought, reflecting on work and play, or perhaps something personal. Sometimes you fall so deep into your subconscious that you fail to notice a friend walk in. Or, an acquaintance throwing a wave.
I find something serene and calm in coffee shops. Nearly every day it is Coffea but sometimes I find myself at Latte Da in Vermillion, S.D., or any number of Starbucks, whether in HyVees while getting groceries, or a drive-thru to get one for the road. Each has its own charm - all are defined by those that congregate there as part of their routine.
I'm always affected by service. How the staff welcomes you makes a return experience possible and most likely. Coffea staff treat you as if you are a dear friend. They are gatekeepers but people from different backgrounds, each with their own story and personality but each with the same courtesy built into their servicing conduct.
Several years ago, I walked into an electronics store in town with the intent on buying a new television. I was psyched, through this was before the flat screens and HDTV, still something a little bigger, with more color, and new was going home with me. As I walked into the the store, the two staffers just ignored me. I just brushed that off and proceeded toward the section of the store filled with TVs.
Ok, I thought, I am where I need to be. As I picked the 32 inch model that I desired, I needed help from staff to unlock the box of entertainment. I look toward the front, signaled and was ignored. I looked directly at one of the workers, signaling him and he acknowledged me but just stood there like the deer that freezes amidst carlights late at night and then just like when your car slows to a near stop, the deer prances off, so did this staffer. I tried again but was simply ignored. I started to feel a little rage inside.
Some days you can wake up in the best of moods and then something happens, and you get a little grouchy. I have never feared confrontation but I didn't prepare myself for drawing out the Genzler fire today. Yet, As I was leaving, one of the consumer-friendly (not) staffers asked if I needed something. And, the heat turned on -- "yes, guys, but I am not getting it here. I tried to get your attention but you knowingly ignored me. So, have a good day!"
They just didn't get it...didn't understand why I was mad. And people, it isn't rocket science, if you work in a business, a positive and upbeat sales demeanor should define your actions. It doesn't take any more energy to be courteous than helpful than ignorant and restive. So I walked down the mall, found another electronics place and bought my TV.
Those electronics staffers were the antithesis of what I get every day in Coffea where they are welcoming. It is attitude, good friendly smiles and a bit of charm different in each one of us but appealing to many. Even when you leave, they are there with the smiles and a thank you for coming in. It is attitude that will draw you back.
The other day I left to go to a meeting and between another scheduled business encounter, I stopped back to get a coffee at Coffea. Did I say there coffee is the best? Well, I told the worker I needed an au lait and as I brought out a $10 bill to pay for it, he said we got it. He realized that I was a regular customer (I do tip well) and as a result, I dropped another dollar into their top jar. I walked out with added pep in my step and the boorish meeting didn't seem to last as long as I feared.
Like a successful sports team, when every player does his part, victories mount. Coffea is winning every day.
My coffee routine isn't dissimilar to someone that regularly works out. When you miss a workout, something inside doesn't feel right and you feel as if you cheated yourself. So too, it is with my daily coffee shop ritual - not having a place to create and write within a calming atmosphere makes me feel as if I lost something that day, never to be recovered.
It is in this heavenly environment, that you sit among people you don't really know yet feel like they are good friends. You find yourself interacting with people from all walks on life. One day it was speaking to an elderly lady, wondering where the civility of her America has gone. Another is interaction with a young college student, using word cards to learn the Greek language. Or another time, it is two women, asking if they can sit in the empty chairs near the fire, and they converse in Spanish. I didn't understand them but their socializing demeanor suggested they were good people, similar to an associate I might have lunch with or drink a cup of coffee.
Then in only a short moment, I drift off into my writing. Trying to find the right words, which seem easier when I have a little chatter, noise from espresso or coffee grinders and the soft pattering of feet. It is where I can find the creative sense in my being. It is an escape yet a place that allows me to find a unique creativity.
Funny, you would think that at home, where I can lay out my documents and organize them in my own mindless style, would serve me better. Not so. In my little Sioux Falls paradise, Coffea, I am not distracted by radio or TV. With soft music, that changes day to day, I can find my creative grounding. And, I can learn.
Pay attention and you will find that the coffee shop congregation teaches you something. It may be in a conversation with someone you've never met or just the actions of others in the way they move and interact that may effect your own socializing skills. For me, everyday and every interaction serves as a learning moment - people teach me all the time and more frequently when they don't know it.
I need to go get another au lait and get going to an appointment. Didn't I mention it, refills are free. Just like this place's spirit.