Somehow circumstances and the stars aligned and I have a day to myself. Not the easiest thing to do in a household where my lovely wife and I live with four kids (14,12 1/2, 9 1/2 and 8, three cats, a Bearded Dragon and a Russian Tortoise. I was suddenly at a loss for what to do. House clean? Check. Garbage and recycling taken out? Check. Kitchen sink empty? Check. Cat boxes clean? Forget it! I've got four kids and they have to do something around the house...gonna’ leave that one for them.
So, what do I do? I head out to Santa Monica Place to hang out at one of the stores. Natch, right? What else would one do? We have a couple of new baristas (baristi?) who I haven't met yet and I like playing 'secret shopper' sometimes.
After an hour and a half of stop-and-go traffic (if you don't live in L.A., no explanation I can give you about why it takes 90 minutes plus to travel 15 miles is going to do the reality of it justice. Just go with it and believe: truth!), I park my car...on the sixth floor. I don't care because the temp is at least 10 to 12 degrees cooler here in Santa Monica than The Valley. Getting out of my car, I head over to the aptly named Artisan Marketplace where our store is situated.
I walk up and see this: a new(ish) employee chatting with a customer about which coffee would be appropriate to buy her son-in-law. It's music to my ears, really. He is impressive in how he is addressing her needs and making suggestions. I see our barista, Blue, who recognizes me.
Knowing what I'm up to, she gives me a conspiratorial smile and an imperceptible nod of her head. But the kid is communicating good information in a respectful and non-snobby or condescending fashion. The customer seems happy. So am I. I order a mocha blended and sit to people and barista watch.
I finish my drink after about twenty minutes of observation and I like what I see. I have to tell our people this more often, but we have really nice and genuine people working for us. I see it a lot at our stores. The slogan 'Coffee Tea Community' isn't just a slogan, it's a fitting description of our stores.
You all know what I mean. When you walk into a place and people are just sitting around drinking, talking, laughing...the customers exude a sense of comfort. The store isn't just a place that they visit, grab a cuppa' and go. No, this is their place. The place belongs to them; and they to the place. Those customers portray a physical expression of the French word 'chez' or the Hebrew word 'etzel' both of which are really more concepts of space and time and belonging than they are prepositions. This is where people come to sit, relax and put a 'comma' in the sentence describing this moment in the paragraph of their day.
Hmmmm, that was an interesting metaphor. Was that mocha blended made with hemp milk that skipped a step in its processing? I don't know. Anyway...
I head back over to the coffee bean area to take a better look at our new can packaging. The idea of putting more information about the coffee was born right where I was standing a couple of months back. I was speaking to a customer telling him the story behind one of the coffees he was thinking about buying, when he interrupts: "Dude! How am I supposed to remember all that! Why don't you put that story on the can." [Glowing light bulb pops above my head appearing in a cartoon bubble. Somewhere offstage a Foley Artist crashes a pair of cymbals together.]
Yeah, I think, why don't we? Hmmmm [hear the sound of rusty gears start engaging]....maybe there's room on the top of the can?' Great suggestion, oh, mystery customer....thanks!
As I was walking out, I saw this little sign posted on a column in the Marketplace Common Area. While this might simply be a heartfelt sentiment from the Santa Monica Place crew, with a small nod to Phineas and Ferb, I like to think it is a little more. I think the crews’ passing along a sincere wish as well as saying something more subtle: this store was 'Chez Nous', their place, too.