The house on the corner is a small two story craftman place with an attached porch. Paint is peeling and wires dangle around its edges. Clearly it was built in another phase of the town's growth, back before utility wires were buried underground. There is nothing that it exudes that welcomes you to an excellent coffee house.
Some will argue it's not an excellent coffee house. People have unique ideas about how coffee should taste and what make something excellent. The Beanery's coffee is strong. Their ounces are almost one and a half times a normal shot. Their coffee drinks are strong.
A worn pale off-white linoleum floor covers the cramped establishment. Its layout and decor defy labels like hip, modern, clean or successful. Walking in on some quiet days would make you believe this little place was doomed to be closed within a few months, if not within a few weeks. You have to be attuned to this place to realize how wrong you are, for the Beanery has an innate welcoming creative energy.
At least it does for me.
I'm drawn to the place for that ambiance as much as I go for the double shot Mexican Mocha that sustains me almost daily. That my muse always seems to show up there is a bennie but closing the discussion about how great the place is after mentioning those things undermine the presence of a wonderful and considerate staff.
While the manager is almost fifty, most of the staff are young, university students or recent graudates. They're polite and friendly. Someone new joins the staff every other month. With the university year ending, we're preparing for staff turnover. A few long time hands are leaving. One is heading north to Alaska. Another already moved on to another opportunity in town and a few others are returning to their home towns.
They're young explorers in life. Many of them will sing with the music behind the counter and in the kitchen as they work. It's great hearing them, from Cold Play to Adele and MacLamore, Frank Sinatra, Willy Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Traci Chapman, Dunn & Brooks, Clint Black, the Rolling Stones and The Who....
My usual drink was prepared wrong the other day. They gave me semi sweet chocolate instead of Mexican. I noticed the difference immediately but shrugged it off, concluding the semi sweet chocolate probably wouldn't cause my demise.
The guy who made it is an experienced hand. When he went to prepare another customer's drink, he smelled the mixture in passing and realized the semi sweet and Mexican prep pitchers had been swapped. From that he deduced he must have made me the wrong drink.
Seeking me out, he apologized, offered a new, correct drink, and a refund. I laughed off his offer while thanking him for it. His contrite appeals amused me but I was steadfast in my declines. He'd made one mistake in almost three years of serving me? That's a pretty good record.
Besides that, the staff is always doing things for me. Several of the barristas refused to charge me the full amount for years. I initially argued, feeling they were cheating the company and I was being an accomplice. My appeals to do right didn't sway them at all. Last week, the manager surprised me by giving me my drink on the house. I was the only customer in the shop at the time and that was her reason for doing it. A few over the years put my drink on their house account, just to be nice.
Today, as I sat and typed, a new barrista, Chloe, approached me with a small cup. "Would you like a small Mexican chocolate milkshake? We have extra."
Would I? "With real ice cream?" I asked.
Smiling, she nodded, her dark eyes wide. "And with real espresso and chocolate."
Accepting the offer, I drank it down, finding it not just delicious but fantastic. Lord knows how much fat was in it.
I don't care. I was under the Beanery's charm.
That's why I like the place.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com