Friday, January 16, 2009

The Owner


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!

1 comment:

Brina L Schenk said...

what an inspiration, this Amanda character.