A Cup of Conversation
Once or twice in a lifetime planets align, stars foretell, old men prophesize (you get the point) and something really special comes together. For us, it was a group of teenagers entering our employ about the same time to become what we still refer to as the “Dream Team.” Competitive, smart, attractive and extremely personable, these kids had it all. By the mid-90’s business was beginning to take off and we could start to breathe, taking more time enjoying life. Retail food and beverage is often a 24/7 proposition, so even when you’re closed, there is always someone on the payroll either baking through the night or doing maintenance in the evening. Getting away from a store-front business is much like getting away from triplet toddlers. Amanda, Matt, Jared, Jeremy and Tasia (her mother was a flower-child) came along at just the perfect time.
The kids were friends and ran in a pack. Working at the coffee house became an extension of their personalities and the place glowed with youthful exuberance. The boys charmed the women customers and the girls made the old men remember when, but what really rocked the house was the speed and quality of their barista craft. These kids were all lightning fast and every cappuccino, latte, and mocha was perfection. Each would hold the other accountable and lift up one another at the same time. Healthy competition brought out the best in each and the whole was greater than the individual parts of the team. You can’t teach that and the competition down the street couldn’t touch it.
I learned to just get out of the way and let these horses run. Mary and I took the opportunity to get out of town and grab a weekend here and there on the coast, travel to see family during Christmas week or back east in the summer. Normally, high-anxiety over who was running the show would suck the joy out of time away, but there was a peace which prevailed when the team was doing their thing. Tasia was in charge but only because boyfriend Jared (whom I was mentoring how to roast) allowed her to think she was. Matt kept things light while Jared continually ramped-up the bar of perfection and Jeremy’s perennial smile reminded everyone at end of the day there are more important things in life than coffee. Not many, but they do exist.
What struck me the most about the quality of these teenagers was the unity and level of respect for each other we did not often see in the normal course of employing teens. I thought parenting well-done played the biggest role but there was a common thread in this rare tapestry of youth well-spent. Maybe it was a shared faith in something far larger than themselves or a genuine love for one another. Whatever it was, it left an indelible mark on our heart.
The thing about aligning planets is they’re always in motion and young adults jettison quickly into orbits of college, career, marriage and family… and so it was with our beloved team. If the stars foretold Jared and Tasia would not marry but Matt and Amanda would, I wasn’t listening. If the old men prophesized Jeremy would help start Black Rock in Portland and Jared Noble Coffee in Ashland both becoming major competitors, I probably would’ve taken less time off or better yet learn to spell the word N-O-N-C-O-M-P-E-T-E.
Be Good not bitter.