t’s taken 12 years to negotiate a deal with Iran. ( They say negotiating these sorts of multilayered deals is like playing chess and bridge simultaneously. How did they do that? The longest recorded tournament chess game is a smidge over 20 hours)
It’s been 12 years since this café in which I’m sitting opened. I’ve been back infrequently but consistently.
And looking around, I feel a bit of a metaphor coming on…The walls are now a gorgeously cool range of greys: a soothing hint of healed bruise. On the accent wall is an abstract mural, and the tables glow in their whiteness. A slightly aggressive whiteness. You know that ‘look at me’ smile people flash when they’ve just had their teeth whitened.
My coffee is just a little bit cold. (Espresso snob – sorry, full disclosure – penance will done)
The chair is just a little bit unforgiving. Love the colour and shape. But it is hard to sit still.
The chaps behind the coffee machine can’t be seen. A strange head-bobbing dance was involved in asking for the coffee.
A table with coffee bean blends for sale – with cheery signs like ‘to bean or not to bean’ – stands where the corner ‘cosy’ tables were once placed.
So what happened?
During those 12 years I recall – just – some phases, like the slightly Moroccan (yes, really), the retro irony (pictures of prawn cocktails), the boho ….
But what I remember much more clearly was why it opened. Because that was why I became a non-local loyal.
They opened because: the tea shop next door (only one in the area- those were the days) was run by the most astonishingly aggressive and shouty owner; because there was no where to put local community leaflets and info; because the anti Starbucks / corporate chain movement had just accelerated in San Francisco; because there was no where in this road to sit, feel welcome, be comfortable, to be treated like a human being and hang out for a while.
I’ve been working on a brand, with the marketing team,that has unwittingly behaved exactly like this café.
Both brand and café started out with a certainty, a conviction.
Over time they have ‘refreshed’ and ‘re-positioned’ so many times that they have forgotten where, or rather why, they started.
Both have become slaves to whatever prevailing wind is currently blowing.
Both brand and café have lost their purpose
And the café’s lost me.