Warning: Some people might think this is a teeny, weeny bit of a rant. Could be.
I don’t have to tell you that 2020 has been tough. So tough it’s driven this shallow gal to bake. Don’t get me wrong. I love baking even if I’m not really a baker. But how much can two people eat (you don’t have to answer that, it’s rhetorical) so, every once in a while, we venture out for our afternoon refreshment at what has become “our” cafe. We sit on the patio (of course), physically distanced but not out of earshot of our fellow coffee drinkers, and spend time watching, talking, listening and just taking some time to pretend there’s no “new normal”. The sun shines down on us and, if it doesn’t, the well placed heaters do. We’ve been doing this for quite some time now and expected to be doing it for some time longer until last week. Last week we were advised that, like many others these days, our cafe is closing. For good. But please don’t shed a tear for the owner. This is no local barista trying to make a go of things in hard times. This is Starbucks. And since it’s kind of hard for me right now to write my shallow blog, I figured I had nothing to lose by voicing my concern to the rather large corporation who would like us to believe they have our best interests at heart. I’m sharing this with you mostly so I can share it with them too
Hey Mr. Starbucks. Remember me? I’m the one who wrote you a while back about the not so great renovation you did at our local cafe. That’s right. The one where you removed all of the comfy chairs, replacing them with rock hard subway seats, I suppose to remind us that while you don’t mind if we sit for a bit we really should be thinking about where we need to be next. It’s the same one where you removed almost all of the tables that seat more than two people because, and I can only surmise, who needs more than one friend? Oh yeah. Just in case we decided it might be nice to wile away an hour or so in the sun on that wrap around patio you have, you managed to take away many of the tables and chairs out there in the fresh air too. You remember that, don’t ya?
To tell you the truth, it worked out ok, mostly because all of us “regulars” managed to find other places to enjoy a cup o’ joe. Some with you, some without. Me and my guy? Well lucky for us we found another one of your cafes to frequent. And even luckier, at this one the sun shines down even brighter during our afternoon repasts and we have been able to make a slew of new “Starbucks’s friends”. You know what those are, right? The people we meet and chat with each afternoon, even though we don’t know their name. The new place has become our place. Which, I understand from your mission statement, is what you folks are all about. You know. “Human connection”. “Enjoyment at the speed of life”. “Always full of humanity”. “A break from the world outside”. Your words, not mine. So I have to ask. What the heck are you thinking?
Before I go on, there’s something you should know. I don’t write a lot of letters these days so a second one to you is kind of a big deal for me. But here you go again. Messing around with a good thing. So what choice do I have? Yes, I know I’m a shallow person and this might not seem like that big of a deal to other people. And I know there are bigger things to worry about right now. Like everyone else, I’m more than a tad worried that the new guy (or perhaps I should say the old guy) won’t be able to pull this one out of the hat and, even if he does, the old old guy will kick and scream his way to an undeserved victory. With the help of his rather unsavoury cadre of friends. I worry too about how the world has been impacted by the pandemic. How, even when this whole thing is over (it will be over, right?) things will never be the same. Or worse perhaps, they will be. And for all those who have lost loved ones, lost jobs, lost homes, and perhaps hope, I worry about how they will ever be able to put their lives back together. But just because there are big things to worry about doesn’t mean the little things aren’t important too. So come on man!, (to quote the new old guy) Why on earth would you pick this of all times to close down our very busy, very robust and very important shelter from the storm?
Now I get it. This particular cafe of yours hasn’t had a facelift for some time. Some would say it’s even a little long in the tooth. The chairs are worn, tables are slightly wobbly and the floor (if you don’t mind my saying so) could use a refresh. But none of that really matters to any of us. Because this place has become exactly what you had hoped it would be. A place to connect, to gain a sense of belonging, to share a laugh, greet old friends and meet new ones. It is, as you suggest, a haven from the worries outside. Not to mention a good neighbour. Because every time we visit we spend a little time and money at the surrounding, mostly locally owned shops. A pound of butter here, a little red fife flour there. It all adds up and makes life better for everyone. So here are my questions for you. Where do you think the kindly, elderly couple, one in a wheelchair the other with a walker, will go for their afternoon outing now? What about the lovely, older ladies who meet on the patio every Tuesday at 2 pm because they live in the area and can no longer drive? Or how about our dear friend and his dog, who loves to bask in the sunshine, while the three of us solve world problems? Have you really thought this through? Have you reflected on how this will impact the community? Your community? One that you have been a part of for the past 16 years? Tell me. Have you thought about us? Because the ways things are going, we’re not going to be thinking about you for very much longer.