Category Archives: Coffee Shop

Sad Farewells

GoodBye! Coffee Mug

We are into the last weekend of business at the coffee shop and it is a bittersweet thing. The owner and I have tearfully planned out the closing activities that will happen on Monday, all the while hoping for a miracle that would allow us to stay open. Alas, it is not to be.

I will miss:

1. My co-workers. I have to say that we have the dream team staff. They are truly awesome. Every one of them. Leigh, Laurie, Jessica, Toren, Jordan, Andreya, Jonny, Jonathan, Casey, and Liz, you guys rock!

2. The cozy atmosphere when it’s cold outside, the fireplace is going full blast inside, and the place is full of conversation and laughter.

3. The best London Fog anywhere in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. Really.

4. The smell of fresh bread baking when I walk into the shop every morning.

5. The customers I’ve come to know by name, and even those regulars whose names I don’t know.

6. The folks at Canterbury Coffee who know the true meaning of customer service and a quality product.

7. The Saturday morning JW crowd that always tries to evangelize us and never succeeds. They’ve been good customers anyway.

I won’t miss:

1. The many, many rude and non-paying people who use the coffee shop as a bus stop shelter. We’ll be happy to clean up the mess from your muddy boots for the last time.

2. The people who persist in drawing their graffiti with jiffy markers on the baby change table in the washroom. Seriously, guys. You need meaningful work.

3. Running out of milk on Sunday nights no matter how much we stock up.

4. Getting midnight phone calls from the security company because the employee who closed forgot to set the alarm. It’s not pleasant having to get out of bed and go to the cafe to make sure all is well.

5. Calls from staff who are supposed to start work in twenty minutes but they’ve suddenly realized they are too sick to come in and no one else is available to work.

6. The high school lunch crowd. A dozen or so come in, occupy most of the tables, two or three might buy something, and they leave half an hour later. Our staff is left to pick up their garbage and put the furniture back where it belongs. Every day.

7. The finicky equipment. A dishwasher with a mind of its own. An espresso grinder that powers off at random for no reason. A flash oven that no one can figure out how to use. A wireless router that works occasionally. Satellite radio that doesn’t work at all.

So farewell, Fireside Coffee. It’s been a great run and I’ll miss you.

For a little while.

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Filed under Coffee Shop, Humor


Well, we got the news that our little neighborhood coffee shop is closing. Permanently.  Today I had the unpleasant task of informing our staff that in two weeks their jobs will be gone.

They took the news fairly well, our employees, and I was proud of the maturity and composure they showed, even though I knew it wasn’t easy for them. I just wanted to hug them all.

A door is closing for the ten of us. Literally.

But we’re already looking ahead for the open window.


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Filed under Blogging, Coffee Shop, Writing

Weird Bookstore Customers


I have one more week of bookstoring and it seems that all the strangest and most eccentric customers have waited until the bitter end to grace me with their presence. I’m not complaining about the additional sales, mind you. I just have to paste on my Barbie doll smile, nod at the appropriate time, and endure.

This morning I had the – um – pleasure of serving a group of five rather strange women. Well, two of them were quite normal, one was in-between, and the other two were off the charts in missing smarticles. (I love that word, smarticles. I heard it this morning from my daughter.)

Anyway . . .

The two normal ladies shopped like normal customers. Asked intelligent questions. Made lovely comments. Purchased non-fluff books. Those are books with some substance. Not like a sappy romance you read in one sitting and then forget the entire story within minutes of finishing it.

The in-between lady stayed in the store while Martina McBride’s Christmas album played through two and a half times. She belched out loud twice (the lady, not Martina McBride) and left only after one of the normal ladies came to fetch her. No purchase. Even after looking through every single book in my inventory.

The two missing smarticles ladies left me speechless. And that is not an easy task. One of them – an elderly white-haired wonder – marched up to the counter and stuck her hand out in greeting, loudly introducing herself as Mrs. C. I murmured something in reply, purposely not giving my name. She caught that and demanded to know. I was tempted to say “Batman” or something equally silly. But I didn’t. Mrs. C proceeded to help herself to the free candy canes I have out for my customers, and then generously distributed them to everyone else in the store. Really. It happened just like that.

During her subsequent tour of the store, Mrs. C could be heard enthusiastically exclaiming, “Oh goodnessy, graciousy me! Look at this! And this! I could just stay here for hours!” Oh please, Lord, today is 12.21.12. I don’t mind at all if you come and get me right this minute! Of course, if He had come right then, there is the possibility that Mrs. C and I would have been on the same bus to heaven.

Oh yeah, she bought a pamphlet on the evils of Halloween. For $1.23.

The last weird lady stood in a corner and watched. She didn’t say a word, but her eyes darted around the room as if she were expecting something terrible to happen and I must admit that the words suicide bomber crossed my mind. She was a very small woman wearing a very large jacket.

Finally, they left. After I watched them all pile into one tiny car, I locked up the store and hurried over to the coffee shop to pick up my lunch. I found my staff in shock. The crazy ladies had been there, too.


Filed under Blogging, Books, Characters, Coffee Shop, Humor, Women, Writing

Another Day in the Bookstore

This is me. Well, it isn’t actually me, but it’s what I was doing in the bookstore yesterday. I felt like there was a neon sign taped to my forehead flashing off and on saying, “Please, customers, I beg you to be annoying!” They certainly obliged. One in particular.

She is one of my regular complainers and came in to pick up some of the books she had on hold. Her purchase history proves that she never spends more than $20 at a time, and yesterday was no exception. I’m used to that with her. But then came this question, “This book is for my 22 year old son. Does it have anything sexual in it?” I stared at her blankly for a moment, unsure as to whether she did or didn’t want the sexual content. I politely reminded her that this was a Christian store, so no, there would be no sexual content. I wanted to add that I was sure the 22 year old son was more than capable of buying the other kind of books if he so desired. But I didn’t.

She sailed around for a few minutes and then stated, disgust dripping from her words, “You don’t have much of a selection here.” I smiled and explained the concept of a closing out sale. What you see is what you get. “I guess,” was her response.

Annoying Customer is also aware that I manage the coffee shop next door. Not finding anything else to complain about in the bookstore, she proceeded to find fault with our little neighborhood cafe. Why don’t we carry salads and fresh fruit plates and a larger variety of baked goods? Her office is in the same complex, so she comes in for lunch once or twice a week and she’d like some variety. Which we have. But apparently not enough. I explained that we’d tried her suggestions and found that it wasn’t cost effective to carry the salads and fresh fruit. People just don’t buy them. Oh, she said, but then could we please not sell store bought cookies. I laughed. Inwardly. Because all of our cookies are homemade . . . by my daughter!

Annoying Customer finally came to the counter to make her purchase. Total was $20.24. And she actually choked at having to pay the 24 cents over $20. I thought for a minute there she was going to put something back. Or ask me to hold it with her other stuff.

I tried to smile when she said she’d be back on Friday. Really, I did.


Filed under Blogging, Books, Coffee Shop, Humor, Writing

People Watching

I am a people watcher. I make no apologies about it, and I’m going to keep doing it. So there.

I people watch as I do my paperwork at the coffee shop. I usually sit at an out of the way table in an area of the shop where no one really notices me, and you’d be surprised at what I see.

That short man with only a tuft of hair circling his otherwise shiny head? Lawyer. No doubt about it. His skin is pasty white from endless hours in the office and he has a perpetual scowl on his face as he hurries from wherever he came from to wherever he is going. His dark suit, white shirt, understated tie, and over-stuffed briefcase give him away.

The woman sitting at the corner table sipping tea with her eyes closed is a teacher. Her hair is in need of a trim, her clothes are comfortable and a bit disheveled, and she looks tired. Really tired. She could be confused with a stay-home mom if you’re not a savvy people watcher, but the clue is the small handbag on the table. The mom would have a large bag with all sorts of kid paraphernalia sticking out the top.

That tall man over there, the one with his nose up in the air – he’s a banker. One of the old boys. I know this because I worked with enough of them. They dress in tasteful business casual style and they’re seldom in a hurry. They never smile. Unless their bank shares are up.

The guy with the laptop at the other corner table is a work-from-home information technology expert. He has his own business and does very well, although his appearance wouldn’t indicate that. I just know because I’ve talked to him. Come on. Sometimes you have to satisfy your curiosity and strike up a conversation!

The pretty young lady at the round table by the fireplace seems to be deeply engrossed in her file folders and notepad. But she looks up every time the door opens, as if she’s waiting for someone. She isn’t, because she’s been sitting there for almost two hours and  you’d think whoever it was she was expecting would have shown up by now. I think she just wants people to notice her.

The high school kids. A half dozen or more of them come in every day on their lunch break. They push tables together, move chairs around, and eat their bag lunches. On occasion, one or two of them may buy something from our menu. We kick them out. They keep coming back.

The mommy’s club meets on a regular basis. These ladies do not have a formal organization, but they might as well. They show up at 8:35 after they have dropped their kids off at the nearby school, and they stay until 11:10 when it’s time to pick them up. Every day. Medium soy sugar free vanilla latte and a blueberry bran muffin. The order never changes.

Then there is the endless parade of construction workers, insurance people, college students, seniors, and nannies who come in, pick up their coffees, and leave. You don’t get as much time to observe them, but you can figure out a whole lot about them if they are regulars.

Come on over and say hi next time you’re in. I’ll be watching for you.


Filed under Blogging, Coffee Shop, Writing

Customer Service in Reverse

I have been in the customer service business all of my adult life. Truth be told, we are all in the customer service business whether we realize it or not.

I was in the coffee shop yesterday morning, doing whatever it is that coffee shop managers do on Mondays. Business was brisk, despite the pouring rain outside, and there was a lot of conversation and laughter going on. Except for the grumpy customer. There’s always a grumpy customer.

Our staff did everything they could to please Mr. Grumpy, but he wasn’t having any of it. We could have served him a  gold-plated croissant and he wouldn’t have been happy. The thing is, he got all he asked for and then some. Our staff bent over backwards for this guy in an attempt to provide an excellent customer experience, but he wanted to have a bad day. And he wanted to make sure everybody else had a bad day too.

Hence, my thoughts about customer service in reverse.

What gives a person the right to treat other human beings the way Mr. Grumpy treated my coffee shop staff? Nothing. Nothing and no one. Ever.

Think about this the next time you buy your coffee, or when you’re at the Walmart checkout, or when you go into the bank. The employees who work in those places are real people with real lives. They have feelings just like you do. Why not make their day instead of expecting them to make yours.


Filed under Acceptance, Blogging, Coffee Shop, Writing


In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy (we thankfully experienced none of it on the west coast), there is much disturbance. Many are still without power and even more are dealing with unbelievable damage and loss. My heart goes out to all who have been affected.

There is disturbance here as well. Perhaps not caused by a hurricane, but the atmosphere is highly agitated just the same. You wouldn’t think it to look outside. Sun shining. Lots of blue sky. Calm winds. A lovely day. Or so I thought when I left the house this morning.

I arrived at the little coffee shop I manage, expecting to get an hour’s worth of paperwork done before I had to open my temporary bookstore next door. I got settled with my hot chocolate, file folder and calculator. Not five minutes into it, our assistant manager informed me that the printer was out of toner and she couldn’t print the daily sales and inventory reports. We have one of these low-end machines that never tells you when you are low on toner, and of course, we didn’t have spare cartridge. So, I told her to save all the reports to PDF and take the totals she needed off the screen instead of a paper copy and I’d go pick up toner later. She looked at me with a blank stare. “What’s a PDF?” she asked. “And what is toner anyway?” Seriously.

After I got the printer issue mostly resolved, I went back to my table to find an email waiting for me. One of our employees had tried to cash her pay cheque and the bank wouldn’t do it because there wasn’t enough money in the coffee shop account. Even though I am the manager, I do not have access to this account. The owner does. And he is in Hawaii for two weeks. Great.

Then my cell phone rang. It was my dear husband telling me he’d received notification that, effective immediately, the service aspect of his work is dropping from 40% to 25% commission. This work is a large part of his day and it’s something the company has been pushing their territory managers to promote. Kind of knocks the incentive out the window, don’t you think?

I finished up my work at the coffee shop and wandered over to the bookstore. I got everything set up for the day, had a lovely visit with a customer, and then tripped over my own feet. The cause of the trip was the sole of my shoe, which I didn’t realize was broken and coming off. I guess I will finally have to retire the eight year old Rockports I have worn nearly every day since I got them. Says a lot for the quality of Rockport shoes.

As I was waiting for the next bomb to explode (funny, how we always expect the worst), a thought came to me. Actually, it was a God thought. There is a disturbance in the atmosphere – the spiritual atmosphere. God is poised to do something awesome and the enemy of our souls knows it, so he is firing all these little arrows in an attempt to distract me from focusing on what God needs me to do. The scoundrel has tried this before. Many times. He isn’t very original. He can’t create anything, so he uses his same old tactics.

But I am on to him this time.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.  – Hebrews 12:2 (The Message)



Filed under Bible, Blogging, Coffee Shop, God, Hope, Writing

Coffee Shop Musings

I usually do my coffee shop paperwork at a table in the corner where I can observe all the goings on during my time there. Interesting, the things you hear.

Customer #1: Do you have grilled cheese sandwiches?

Barista: No, I’m sorry, we don’t.

Customer #1: Can you make a grilled cheese sandwich?

Barista: All of our sandwiches are pre-made.

Customer #1: You didn’t answer my question.

Barista: Sorry, no, I can’t make you a grilled cheese sandwich.

Customer #1: Can’t or won’t?

Barista: Can’t.

Customer #1: Okay, I’ll have an apple turnover and a vanilla latte then.


Customer #2: Can I get change for the bus?

Barista: Sure.

Customer #2: Can I use your phone?

Barista: Sure.

Customer #2: Can I get a small coffee and I’ll pay you next time I come in?

Barista: I’m sorry, we can’t do that.

Customer #2: Wow, you guys aren’t very accommodating here.


Me: (to a group of a dozen or so high school kids who had been occupying several tables for half an hour. Not one had purchased anything.) Hey guys. Are any of you planning on buying a coffee or anything?

Group: (complete silence – they just stared at me)

Me: Because the tables in here are for the use of paying customers.

Group: (still silent)

Me: Okay then. (I turned and walked away, but every single one of them came up to the counter and bought something. Weird.)


Filed under Blogging, Coffee Shop, Writing

How Not to Apply for a Job

I am in the process of hiring additional employees for the fall season. I manage a relatively small coffee shop in a relatively quiet neighbourhood and finding relatively good staff can be a challenge. So I put an ad on Craigslist. Within 24 hours, I had over fifty resumes filling up my inbox, so I removed the ad before I was truly inundated. Out of those fifty plus applicants, I interviewed five people with the intent to hire two or three. And two of those interviewees were absolutely great! So I’m happy.

Several hopefuls did not even make the short-list, however, regardless of the fact that they appeared to have all the qualifications for the job. Here are some examples of what I saw on resumes and cover letters. I kid you not.

1. Hey! I’m a great person and I like coffee. You really want to hire me. (Really? You start a cover letter with “hey”?)

2. To the Manger: Here’s my resumay and I hope you will phone me to come in soon. (Ever heard of spell check? And I am not a “manger”.)

3. Dear Manager, I have no experience but I think I can do the job good. (At least you were honest.)

4. One of my biggest accomplishments was losing 30 pounds in 2004 and I’ve kept it off. (Seriously? I’m happy for you, but this has no place on a resume unless you’re applying for a job at a weight-loss centre.)

Then there were the interviews.

I asked this question: Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with someone and how you resolved it. The responses were – well – interesting.

1. I got this job at Boston Pizza one time and this girl like had to train me and I knew like right away she didn’t like me. You can tell. So I just like ignored her except when I had to watch her do stuff and at the end of the shift she like came up to me and said she didn’t like me at first because I was so beautiful and she wasn’t, but she liked me at the end. And then she asked me if I wanted to go to a party with her and I said like no way was I going there. (The woman was like 35 years old and I was like speechless.)

2. I never have conflicts with anybody. (Please share your secret.)

3. Conflict? What does that mean? (Um . . . what are they teaching kids in schools these days?)

There are the applicants who tell me they have no weaknesses. They are usually the same ones who can’t think of a single example when I ask them to tell me about a time they thought of a way to improve something. And of course, they are very quick to share how much they love dealing with people (except the difficult ones), how well they work under pressure (until there is a lineup at the counter), and how quickly they catch on to new things (before you’ve hauled them into the office again to bring an error to their attention).

Oh, the joys of management.


Filed under Blogging, Coffee Shop, Expectations, Humor, Writing

The Spreadsheet

I’ve had to take a little break from the business of writing because I am up to my eyeballs in spreadsheets – or, as some would say, real work. I won’t mention any names. Have you ever heard that kind of comment? You know, the one you get when you tell people you’re a writer and they say, “So what do you do for real work?” I have learned to tolerate such remarks. And I don’t kick them in the shins anymore.

Back to the spreadsheets. My recent pilgrimage into the management of a coffee shop is actually becoming quite enjoyable. I am in the process of organizing a myriad of electronic files and paper files and no files into something that actually spits out meaningful information. I’ve had to relearn a lot about Excel, since I haven’t used much more than the basics during the past few years. And I am actually having fun doing it. I know, I know, I’m weird. But the results are amazing and my boss is terribly impressed.

In the meantime, I am working on a blog story that is thus far untitled. You can scroll down and read the first four parts I’ve posted here over the past few days. Let me know what you think. I’m also mentally plotting and writing and editing the other two novels I have on the go.

Now if I could figure out a way to spreadsheet a story . . .


Filed under Being Creative, Coffee Shop, Writing