Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Rose and Raymug coffee black
Rose: rice krispie
Ray: choc chip cookie…sometimes two.
The other day Rose came into the café and I gave her a coffee on the house. She was reluctant, said I was horrible and shook her fist at me….. I’m ok with that ;) Rose has been stopping by the café almost everyday since about May of 2008, usually accompanied by her husband Ray if he isn’t out volunteering or lunching with old work buddies. They found us while out for their daily afternoon walk and we can’t seem to get rid of them no matter how many free coffees they get. They moved in from Sardis where they had been for the past 3 years into Kits where it would be easier to get around by foot. They aren’t strangers to the area though as they spent thirteen years living in False Creek, and Ray was born in Chilliwack. They had spent a short stint up in Prince George after Ray had been moved over there and it was apparently the coldest winter on record that year so they didn’t stay long. Rose was recalling that in one attempt to keep warm they had stapled a sleeping bag to the door...with Ray inside, quite the insulator that Ray. Okay he wasn't in the sleeping bag, but I wouldn't put it past him.
Rose hails originally from Pembroke, Ontario and was in a nursing program in Montreal when she first met Ray. Ray was working as a chartered accountant at the time and had hopped on a train heading to Pembroke to do an audit on the Eddy match company (which incidentally was where Rose’s father worked). Rose was just heading home for a visit. They struck up a conversation and in Rose’s words “we met on a train in Montreal and that was that.” Her first thought was “oh great, a solution to my income tax!” It was the first year Rose had to work on her tax so it was pretty much destiny.
It’s interesting seeing customers day in and out and only knowing that one side of them forgetting that they, as we the employees, have lives outside of the shop……okokok I don’t have a life outside the shop it’s just safe in between those four walls, warm and coffee, I mean cozy. Tangent. So it was nice when I sat down with Rose and Ray to also be accompanied by their youngest daughter Maria. They also have a son (Ian who is in Langley) who is part time into income tax…similar to that crazy guy Ray. Their other daughter Sarah, lives in Castlegar with her partner and two kids. Noah, who is seven is reportedly quite the artist and they are all very proud of his work. Ray had also worked with Sarah doing some upholstering work in Chilliwack and she now has her own business in Castlegar. Their daughter Maria was visiting from Cortes Island where she is currently living/working on a farm with her partner. Oddly enough Maria was in the town of Nelson doing a woodworking course the same year I was there attending the Selkirk College music program. “It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all….” learned that one in school, only took two years. Throughout the conversation it is neat to see more of Ray’s humorous character shine through and how him and Rose have a comfortable understanding of each other. When asked about why they keep returning to the café, their response is “the coffee and the service”. The latter is slightly surprising, haha good service….here…from this staff…really? They tend to keep to themselves reading the papers and taking in the midday but are not opposed to visiting with strangers. Ray once had a conversation with a man from Oak Bay, where he lived for a time. They were able to talk about some of the familiar places including the Thursday night hang out “Snug Pub”. Generally though it’s been a place where they can continue their tradition of afternoon coffee that they started about three years ago. They are familiar with a few of our staff and think that Ryan needs to be a bit more attentive (wink).
Their daily visits are ones that we can look forward too when working a long afternoon and Rose's laugh is one that is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. That’s Rose and Ray.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Duh-Duh-Duh. The one and only owner…..(cheers, cheers)
Ok so, this café, this ambience, this food, this coffee, this place well it had a beginning. Technically that was roughly 100 years ago (as Eureka market) but as far as the life of Arbutus Coffee it’s a mere six and a half.
The number of times a customer comes in and compliments the décor and the coffee etc. etc. is kind of endless. In my own little world I think of Amanda as a celebrity of the community. She’s aloof, many people know her by name, few actually see her and even fewer have had the opportunity to sit down and chat with her.
I am often surprised that there are not more camera flashes and asking of autographs. We were thinking of getting t-shirts and my bet was on having her face on the front and “resistance is futile” on the back….whaddya think?
And because there is much to be known here, her interview shall be conducted in two parts.
This is part one: the business.
Travel back with me if you will to a time not too long ago when the grass was green and uh hmm the grass is still green. Right Amanda, she didn’t always bake and make coffee, no. Well, oh wait…she did actually bake over at a place in West Vancouver until it was sold. She moved onto an office job at a garment manufacturers and after about three months of mind blowing work there, she found that in her deepest of not so deep thoughts she wanted to start her own business. Amanda decided it was time to move on up. Movin on up, to the Westside. So one day in the heart of Kitsilano a quaint market place was up for sale (cue choir). This piece of property was brought to her attention by the realtor of her now husband Bruce Wayne. Ahem…he’s really secretive but super nice and he drives this crazy car that’s black and yeah….anyways more of that in part two. At the time owned by a pair of fun loving hippies, the place was in a little need of some simplicity and stability. The previous owners, interesting as they sound, tended to run the business in a very laissez faire fashion and it served not only as a café but also as a corner store. The design choices of that time have been described as…overwhelmingly crazy.
At the tender age of 25 Amanda was now the owner of her own business. It took a couple months to get the place up and running as a coffee shop and at the heart of it all was Amanda herself.
She did have help from her family and the man known as Wayne, cause hey everyone needs people. The goal was to create a community atmosphere, and serve comfort food and coffee.
“…creating an environment that you want to be in, right. Whether you’re a worker or um, the customer or whatever. I think that the customers have always lived by that and contributed to it. Like we try to create an environment where they want to pick up their coffee in the morning. They follow that same sense of purpose.”
She was the only employee in the beginning and therefore had a great opportunity to meet the people in her neighborhood. Even though talking with people wasn’t necessarily her thing, there wasn’t much chance of avoiding it in this line of business. At the start there was a small but loyal customer base. It was more an extension of the customers’ living rooms, with sometimes heated debates or just casual conversation of which Amanda could be part of, considering she had the time. There was a certain amount of camaraderie with the customers, some of whom still frequent the café today. Over time her shyness has subsided but she has had to find the balance between her private and public life…ahem much like a celebrity right, yeah. “I think my world opened up, I was around a lot more different types of people”
In the early days Amanda did everything, the baking, serving, laundry, entertainment….which sometimes meant making pies at midnight (I have a feeling that was part entertainment and part baking). The business has changed however, and over time she has hired staff. There was a girl named Robyn who was the first to be truly more involved with the business, because it had gotten to a point where it was too much for one person. Jump ahead a few years and Arbutus currently employs nine half decent folk. Every single one of us is livin’ the dream baby, yeah!
Arbutus is not like many other city coffee shops, it is a community and Amanda hopes it continues on in that same tradition. “Either people get it or they don’t.” which is true, those that are here, are so because they enjoy it. It’s a place where we care about our customers and they care about us...seriously. It may sound cliché or sappy but hey so is life uhn!