Monthly Archives: May 2012

In Defense of the Local Café

In a time when convenience trumps service and quality, a time when people exclaim the need to support local business as they head to the local chain anyway, there are a few dreamers who still believe in community.

Dormont in the South Hills of Pittsburgh boasts a lot of stores that survive because of the loyalty of the residents and the quality of their service. They learn names, give genuine smiles, and try to accommodate their picky, and sometimes neurotic, clientele. There are several dinners, bars, restaurants, florists, and specialty shops that line Potomac Avenue and make it a delightful strip of entertainment.

Of particular note is a Café all the way up near the T-track. It’s across from a gas station and, if you’re coming from any of the other little shops that line Potomac, up-hill all the way.  Occasionally I have looked up that hill and wondered if it was worth the climb up the slight but expansive incline. Even with my bad knees I’ve never once decided it wasn’t.

When you walk in you notice the cheerful blue-green walls and the black counters and trim that lend it a little sophistication. On the wall to the right, visible through the large bay windows is a mural by local artist Scott Hunter. There an area with couches and a coffee table as well as a more modern table and chair eating and working area.

Their Bake Case is always, reasonably not excessively, stocked with delicious and amazingly beautiful feats of confectionery (often including vegan offerings). Their savory foods, including breakfast and lunch, are made when you order and are brought to your table. For-here coffee is bottomless for a whopping two dollars and their house blend is a delightful roast.

They have events, like the Mother’s Day Brunch, Hangover Brunch, and themed Birthdays. They also make the most gorgeous wedding cakes and cupcakes to order. They frequently communicate with their Facebook followers and post photos of their new creations with the same zeal new parents flaunt their babies.

All of these things brought me to Sugar when I passed by and looked in once upon a time. Why I stayed, why anyone stays with a local business, was because of the people who work there.

The baristas, chefs, and bakers who work at Sugar are more than professional – they are people who truly enjoy what they do. I’ve never received anything but a genuine smile as they take my order, serve my drinks, and bring my food.  When I bring in the little boy I nanny they are delighted and engaging with him and thank us for making the trek, now knowing we walk a mile to be there and a mile back home. When I come with my laptop and sit at the table from breakfast to closing they happily suggest new foods, inform me of their specials, and ask if I want a refill on my Sugar Blend coffee.  I’ve never been asked to leave or to buy more. I’m made welcome.

It pleases me to know Sugar is doing well in a time when people go to a Starbucks because they don’t want to have to think about what they are ordering or try anything new. They turn the coffee drive-by of recent years into an experience for everyone they serve. And they do it with a smile and a cup of amazing latte art.

Bravo, Sugar! Long-live the local café!

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White Rabbits

Once, a long long time ago, I had notions of grandeur. Sure I was a teenager, and that’s just kind of expected, but I was still a little sad when I realized that feeling is gone now.

Things fall behind when real-life sets in. Dreams get put aside because you think “I’ll have time for that later”.

Winter 2012 reminded me we don’t always have later.

A person very special to me, and to many many people, died abruptly at 24. She was an artist, a geek, and above all – a dreamer. And while she managed to do more with those dreams in her 24 years than most people ever do, there were so many things left undone.

And now, here I am. Because of someone who encouraged my dreams, and lead by example. A younger cousin, taken shockingly and abruptly by a genetic disease no one knew she had. If she could live with spirit and joy, if she could fearlessly follow her dreams, then I should too.

Since I’ve had trouble working properly I’m going to use this blog as a place to motivate myself, give praise to others, ponder the ‘important’ questions, and above all – enjoy what time we have.

Dreams are worth working for.

Keep Flying, Mei-mei.

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