Thursday, June 25, 2009


I frequently struggle with the fact that my local bank does not open until 10am. Anytime I get up early to start getting errands done, I always find myself having to backtrack to the bank because they don't open until nearly lunch time.

The other day I was taking Anouk to our new nanny-share a couple of miles away, and decided I would ride her over on my bike. Because I didn't want to backtrack on my bike, I decided that I would break the bank rules (and probably parent rules) and take my bike (with baby) through the drive-through because they open a bit earlier at 9am.

We rolled in with just two cars in front of us, so it looked like it should be a quick transaction. The sign said "Single Transactions Only" and so I was sure that everyone had prepared like I had and had their deposit slips ready and cash in hand... or something like that. But of course, the first car had to fill out their entire slip, then there was an error, then they had a few questions, and oh, one more thing... five minutes later, it was the next car's turn. Because this lady seemed annoyed, I was sure she would be quick. But again, I realized it was foolish of me to have such high expectations of the drive-through... she deposited a large check, and it was out of state, so a portion would be on hold. Not all of it is available right away, she's angry, she's wealthy, she wants the teller to know that she has plenty of money to cover this... she threatens to give her personal branch manager a talking to...

I'm really getting frustrated at this point - now she's just talking, not even resolving anything. Anouk is getting antsy, screeching every few minutes, feeling trapped in her bike seat and helmet. I'm bordering on yelling to her to hurry up...

Then suddenly Anouk lifts her two little arms (rolls jiggling), and starts screaming angrily at the top of her lungs the only thing she could think of given she doesn't know any frustrated or angry words:

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY ... TO... YOU!!!" (little baby fists shaking in the air at the car in front)

It was only after she had the courage to shout at the top of her lungs her frustration, and after I heard the woman in the car in front of me now sharing with the teller all of her plans for the day and the weather (now 20 minutes after we got in line), did I finally shout to the woman, "Let's move it, lady!"

Of course, after she left, I was scolded by the teller for riding my bike through the drive-through lane. But because I had waited so long, and because I was a good customer, they would allow it this one time.

In the end, in spite of all of that frustration, it was worth it just to see Anouk with fists clenched shouting with baby frustration the most hilarious line I could think of...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Response to an Urban Spoon review

I've wondered since we opened how I would take it if we received a less than perfect review in a public forum, and today I read our first one on Urban Spoon:

"Good for Kenton, not me" by warmgray9 (1 review)
May 27, 2009 - Doesn't like it - I'm super glad that there's a new coffee shop in Kenton - much needed and I wish them the best - but this place was just not for me. It IS a place for moms. And kids. And moms with kids. There's a play room in the back and children are pretty much given free reign of the rest of the place as well. Makes it awesome for moms who want a place to converse, not so much for dudes who want to work.Coffee was good, cupcake was not so much good. No complaints on the service. "

I'm not sure if I'm being sensitive as a business owner or a mother. Probably both. I remember when I first started sharing my idea for the coffee shop, someone told me of another north Portland coffee shop that specifically said they did not want their shop to be a place for stay-at-home mothers to hang out with their kids, and I think I felt very much like I feel right now... I think it feels like someone saying, "Yeah, you're cool, and I'd love to hang out, but I can't stand your kid." Obviously this is the mother in me speaking/reacting.

As a business owner, it's hard to explain to people the many roles a coffee shop is supposed to play, and the difficulty one finds in trying to please each person's unique needs: work and meeting space, a place to relax, a place to get away, or as Starbucks says, "the third place" (work, home, coffee shop). I hoped to never have to choose one or the other because I want everyone to feel welcome in my shop, and everyone to feel that their needs are being met. But when one coffee shop after another starts closing their children's spaces because individuals get annoyed, parents get pushed out and have to find another place where they too can get away (they, more than anyone, need a place to get away). So I've found myself having to say to those individuals that have approached me with annoyance at the children, that parents have nowhere left to go, and although I know children can be annoying (they are usually just as annoying to their parents as they are to others), if it becomes too much, that individual is going to be welcome at every other coffee shop... and these families are not.

The other thing I'd like to address as a business owner is the importance of reviews, and a request that individuals give places (all places, not just my shop) more than one opportunity to impress you, and only after consistently poor experiences do you write a negative review. These reviews are public, and can forever change the success of a business. I sometimes wish that all of these sites had procedures like eBay does - they ask you several times if you really want to write a negative review because it cannot be changed and will seriously impact the person you're reviewing. To the writer of this review, although you said it was good for Kenton, but not for you, the review was predominantly negative, the impact of which may be poor for business and thereby Kenton. I sincerely cannot emphasize enough that what I believe warrants a less than positive review should be a consistent occurrence and one that every customer at every hour of every day will likely experience. Otherwise you are falsely creating the idea that your one bad experience is truly what to expect at all times.

To be clear, of course, children don't usually have free reign of the entire shop. It can sometimes get chaotic, but I usually find that parents quickly abate the situation if they are clearly bothering others. In my observation, the quietest times at the shop are before 10am (the earliest it's usually possible to get everyone together and out the door) and after 1pm (most naptimes). So if anyone that enjoys working at the shop is looking for a good range of hours, I would try this out.

And as a final word on the matter, I too was once childless, and can easily recall my annoyance with mothers who let their children run wild in a place I was trying to enjoy. I remember telling my husband how we would not be parents like that, and then we would leave to find quiet refuge at another spot nearby. Years later, with my own child always in tow, I can tell you that I still get frustrated when kids run wild in places I'm trying to enjoy, but now it's usually my kid, whom I've come to realize is not so easy to control, and as far as leaving to find quiet refuge elsewhere, there are less than a handfull of places left for the likes of me.