As a Barista at a local coffee shop, I am a personal LOVER of any small town cafe. Not only do I appreciate the behind the scenes work that the men and women put into keeping these family owned businesses afloat, but there is just something about a local coffee shop that emits good vibes. You know that warm feeling you get when you walk into a store and the employee comes out from behind the counter to greet you? They tell you their name and ask if you need any help – they’re just doing their job, but for a moment, you feel particularly special. It’s that feeling amplified by a hundred that keeps me coming back to any small town coffee shop I can find.
A common complaint I here when I express my absolute love for these tiny hole in the wall shops is “but the coffee isn’t that good”. Often people compare the coffee at these local shops to cooperate brands such as Starbucks, and turn their nose up at the first taste before really even giving it a chance. I can give my honest opinion on this discussion, because I am lucky to work in a shop that is both small town local and a Starbucks. We have a license to sell their coffee and their product to an extent, but we are still our own business, and therefore we still have all of the same struggles and benefits of being a family run coffee shop. I have seen both sides of the coin come into our store – we see people who love Starbucks coffee and are so relieved to have found the only Starbucks for hours in any direction, but we also see people who are upset when they discover that the only coffee we serve is Starbucks. I can see both reactions as being validated and credible, as I am a firm Starbucks lover, but I also crave the atmosphere cooperate businesses often (not always) don’t provide.
The shop I work at is a perfect combination of the two – but these places are rare. While we serve Starbucks which is a high selling point for tourists and locals alike, we also offer a friendly vibe in which if you stay long enough, each barista will quickly know your name and will gladly swap tales with you for as long as you’re willing to listen. Some of the strongest bonds I have made in this small town come from the shop in which I work, where not only is everyone accepted, but everyone is also welcomed in as family.
My appreciation for local coffee shops in no way undermines the hard work, good coffee, and wonderful service that I have received at branded shops such as Starbucks. But the point is that they should not be in competition- they are in completely different realms, and should be able to coexist beautifully.
Coffee lovers, small town business lovers, and happiness enthusiasts in general can find what they are looking for inside the four walls of a hole in the wall coffee shop, greeted by the smell of ground espresso beans and baking cookies. The only fear is that one might stay too long and become a “regular”, expected inside the warm walls every day for a light pick me up that might just keep us going.