experiences in a coffee shop

Starbucks in Santa Barbara, Starbucks in Oregon…theme of my life?

One of two Santa Barbara Starbucks that made our trip amazing!

I’m back in Portland, Oregon for a few days of rest with my family and remembering once again why I love this city, the runner up in the “first city of coffee” category. Seattle wins, but Portland is not a bad coffee-loving city! I will admit, though, that I was already waxing nostalgic for my Santa Barbara balcony and the morning drive to the city Starbucks while we watched the city come awake. Santa Barbara is one of the most unique small towns I’ve been to: upscale mixed with homeless, weary shoppers sitting in Starbucks chatting with musical street people. It seemed to me one of the curiosities of Santa Barbara that a larger percentage of the already large street population seemed to be musical. There were guitars, guitars, guitars and one sitar in sight. Delightful. And I loved the Starbucks there. They had new pastries, tasty delights that seemed to perk up my morning. On our last day, my usual Iced Espresso breve with energy was handed over and David and I sat down to eat. A few minutes later the barista wandered to our table with another grande Iced Espresso. “I think I forgot energy in that one. Have this one, too.” Yes, Santa Barbara life was good, and I shall miss it.

And now Portland.

As you long-time blog readers here know, I love the hotel we stay at here precisely because there is a very friendly Starbucks in our parking lot! Yes, I can get to coffee quicker than I can get to my car. This morning we wandered in and spotted some familiar baristas from our last trip, and wonder of wonders — some of the unusual tasty treats from Santa Barbara.

“I know you,” the barista said, “You’re the people who visit family here. You are the guy who has great shirts. It’s been awhile. Welcome back!” Kudos to the staff of the Sequoia Parkway Starbucks in Tigard, Oregon. Well done.

Oh…and those tasty treats? They are a preview of the new “good for you” breakfast offerings that Starbucks is rolling out! You can read about it in the USA today here.

Hang out a welcome sign: Starbucks’ green umbrellas

In some cities they may be on every corner, but today they were a welcome sight!

Yes, I know they are everywhere. Yes, I know that some people question the authenticity of a place that wants to be a community third place, and yet, looks exactly the same from place to place. I even know that there are other places to drink coffee and gather with the community. But I’ll tell you this:

When you are driving through Lake City Florida (not a huge city by any means) and you see familiar green umbrellas and a green, round logo, life is good.

It’s great to be home.

Drink your espresso if you want the energy!

Starbucks Iced Espresso with ADDED ENERGY!!!

Apparently I’m bored on this road trip! We stopped at a turnpike Starbucks and I got my usual Grande Iced Starbucks Doubleshot, breve, with energy. I needed the caffeine to stay awake and keep us moving between the white lines! David and I are in the car alone, and the two of us can be very quiet. Well phone call and texts after phone call and texts came in, and soon we were making another pit stop. I grabbed a drink that I knew had lots of caffeine, because I was dragging. (Yes, I know it’s an addiction issue. I’m investigating rehab opportunities). We got back in the car, and it was then that noticed my still full doubleshot.

Lesson learned: you won’t feel the energy if you don’t actually pick up the cup and drink. Just buying it is not enough.

Spiritual parallels abound. Make sure you are putting in the effort needed to feel the energy! It won’t seep in by osmosis.

Onward to the next pit stop!


Marla and David in Starbucks in Lexington Center, Lexington, Massachusetts.

No matter how often or far I wander, home is the soothing comfort of places where I know and am known. I made the rounds of all my haunts today, just happy to be here. Jeremy, definitely one of the best Starbucks baristas ever, was happy to see us walk in today. Not only that, he upheld Starbucks’ front-runner status by treating us to our iced doubleshots with energy.  All you in Lexington, take note! Jeremy’s leadership skills are legendary around town by now, but in making up for the lack of customer service in Lexington, Massachusetts he demonstrated an amazing ability to put the mission of the company ahead of an individual mission. In the end, that translates into customer loyalty. Not to mention friendship!

During that same trip we ran into Shiloh, a friend of my daughter’s who is also another great Starbucks barista. Shiloh wasn’t working; in fact he was in another store than his own. He was there for the coffee and the community. That says a lot to me. We had a great discussion about the amazing wideness of the church, and God’s ability to use people in places in the ways He chooses. God baffles us in His ability to connect us all.

And to think all I was expecting was coffee.

How I settle into a coffee shop

Chairs at the bar at Starbucks

David and I have been doing extensive “field work” picking our favorite coffee shops around town! It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it. Pray for me in this endeavor.

I’m totally kidding…we’re having a blast making friends all over town, to tell you the truth. As I’ve mentioned before, the bars are really the friendliest spots where people are most open to conversation. But it doesn’t set quite the example I want to set for my kids to be hanging out in bars, so we’ve been looking for the friendliest coffee shops instead. South Florida has a strange sense of community. Actually, they have very little sense of community. That lack of “place” is probably our biggest frustration. There are literally no hometown choices within a 20 minute radius, so Starbucks it is. So this is how we’ve tried to establish ourselves in the community during this intense season of caffeination.

  1.  We know nearly all the barista’s names in our three top spots. We are trying to consciously limit ourselves to the top three, too. There are only so many relationships you can nurture!
  2. We make sure we are in the coffee shop at least two to three times a week.
  3. We stay put in the shop for at least an hour, preferably more. During that time we make sure we get up and down a few times.
  4. Talk! I’ve had some really interesting conversations lately, with people who are very diverse. The new perspective this has given me is invaluable.
  5. Bring an interesting book. I’ve said it before, your book is the best conversation starter there is! A follow-up to that should be obvious: be sensitive in what book you choose to read!
  6. Be a friend. You are a “guest” in this coffee shop, or any other place you find yourself in the community. This is not the time to preach, beg or exhort. I really don’t think there’s ever a time to do those things. Just learn to be part of the community and open your heart and mind to new relationships. Sitting at my coffee shop in Lexington, Massachusetts one rainy day I got to learn all about the world of cut throat scrabble competitions in Lexington. Use this time to learn and listen.

I don’t know if any of this is helpful to you or not. I just thought I’d tell you what we are trying to do around here to build community. It’s all part of a journey, and I’d love to hear from you on your journeys, too. Your community is probably different from mine. You might actually have a community! The title of Howard Schult’z book kind of says it all: “It’s not about the coffee.”

Sunday afternoon at the coffee shop

Exterior of downtown at the gardensInterior of Downtown at the Gardens Starbucks

I should have posted this yesterday, but I can’t resist writing up a little incident that happened yesterday. With one child in Costa Rica for a missions trip and another one flitting around from one friend’s house to another, David and I found ourselves with a free afternoon. We decided to head to the coffee shop in the picture for a time of reading and relaxing.

When we arrived at this Starbucks, which is one of my favorites, the first thing we noticed is that none of the regular baristas was there, and the two who were there had the music totally cranked. It was trance music, which is – in my opinion – hard to read to! Then we went to sit down and discovered a guy sitting in the middle of a triad of the soft chairs. This presents a problem: one side or the other and we’d have joined him. He was reading “How to Read the Bible,” so I kind of wanted to strike up a converation. But David and I didn’t feel like flanking him so we sat at a nearby table.

Before long two older women came in and sat on either side of our reading friend. Because the music was loud (or maybe because they were loud) they started talking at the top of their lungs.

“What stores do you want to see?”

“I thought we saw them.”

“No, there are more. What do you want to see?”

“How do I know unless I know what is here?”

Within 30 seconds (no exaggeration) our reading friend packed up, David and I packed up and even the guy across the room working on his computer packed up. It was mass exodus at the coffee shop. The two ladies, might I add, happily switched comfy chairs and settled in.

No redeeming value here…I just thought it was funny how quickly the room can clear out with the wrong environment!