blog from the ceo & superbarista of phoenix coffee, home of the best baristas in cleveland, ohio

Monday, May 08, 2006

So the drama... of coffee...

Kiley pointed out to me yesterday evening that the amount of drama that he experiences in our coffeeshops is about 10 fold what he experienced when he used to work construction. I didn't argue with him. Although when he was doing construction, he wasn't the manager, and now, as Phoenix's General Retail Manager, he is well aware of the various personality conflicts, the hiring, the firing, the customer stories and the crises that are part of running a coffee shop.

I think I would like to run a business with little or no drama. It would be easier. But where is the fun or challenge in that?

Over the past month, I have had different conversations with three individuals who are interested in somehow documenting coffee or coffee culture... D. wants to write something about it, E. is writing a screenplay, L. is making a film or documentary. Part of the draw about coffee is probably the drama. Like our 2 month old hot water heater breaking on Sunday. Like one of our baristas leaving her shift because her boyfriend got arrested and her dog had to be put to sleep. Like the customer complaining about the barista who wears a dog collar. It never stops. This is a business built on people; our foibles and talents make our coffee what it is.

L. is editing some footage she took of Carl, and trying to determine how to turn it into a film about coffee. We were discussing what else or who else she could put in the film. I told her that I thought Carl is the quintessence of coffee culture. This led to a discussion of coffee culture, and what it is, one of my favorite topics. Laura asked if I thought Starbucks had coffee culture. I said sure, they do, but when you walk in a Starbucks, there isn't that same sense of Something Might Happen that you have when you walk into a Phoenix. Why? Because at Phoenix, things are less corporate, and less structured. The lines are more blurred. Maybe dangerously blurred, depending on your comfort level with these things.

When is a customer just a customer? Some customers verge on employees... like when John Eckendorf goes to get bagels for us. Or just look at how Jeremy got his job at the Lakewood Phoenix. He hung around and helped so much that they decided to hire him. And good thing they did, because Jeremy is awesome. And the line between employee and family member gets pretty blurred too, especially when both of my parents work for/around Phoenix. These blurry lines are arguably both the cause of and the solution for the drama.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


You sell bikes too?!?

Check "Ohio"

4:21 PM, May 09, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the mention ,Sarah. I do this because I'm there, I have the time, and I know that not all of the staff have cars to make the early morning run. But the main reason is that Phoenix on Lee is a family - and family members need help once in awhile. Glad I can help.

John Eckendorf

6:49 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger steveg said...

THIS is, I think, that difficult articulation of What is Phoenix Coffee! Well, expressed and is the "us" in finding customers that "get us."

To be added in the Evangelist's bag of conversations with our wholesale customers.

11:28 AM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger Sarah Wilson-Jones said...

Julie and Bobby sell bikes at the Lakewood store. Actually, I don't know how many they actually sell, but they would sell you one if you wanted. They also are willing to deliver beans to Lakewood customers via bike! Now isn't that cool?

4:35 PM, May 14, 2006  

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