Comparison Visits

comparison shopping for coffee

Whenever I’m visiting another city or town, I’ll always check out as many of its coffee shops as possible. I want to get ideas on how other people are running their shops. I never want my place to become static or stagnant. If I deliberately choose to leave things the way they are running, that’s ok, because it’s intentional. But I don’t want to let things run ad nauseum out of complacency of inattention.

I visited a coffee shop in a little town in Tennessee. The shop was called Poet’s (not starbucks). (I never found out why; I also never asked.) A bit of an unusual feature of that coffee shop was the high counter that ran across the store front, right in front of plate glass windows that ran floor to ceiling and extended across the whole front of the store.

So when you walked up to Poet’s, you saw through the glass store front to this long counter and people sitting at it facing the store front and the street. Usually they were engrossed in something—their laptop or their phone, or occasionally a book. Or sometimes in a conversation with another person.

Outside the glass store front was the sidewalk, and there were several café tables there in front of the windows. People inside at the counter could basically look down at the tops of the heads of patrons sitting at the café tables.

That counter/bar that ran along the glass store front is not something I’ve seen in any other location.

Another interesting thing about this coffee shop is that it had a back room. So you could take your coffee and snack and sit at any of the tables in that back room. The thing is, you wouldn’t know it was there unless you used the restrooms, which were located between the main front room and the back room.

I was surprised when I went to use the ladies’ room and saw that just beyond it was another whole room. It had a different feel from the front room. There were no windows and instead the back walls were lined with book shelves full of books.

For some reason it was much quieter back there. Almost felt like a library. All the people in that room were either studying or reading or working on their laptops. No one was sitting having conversation. It was almost like everyone knew that that was not the room for sitting and chatting. That was the room for quiet and solitary activity.

Those were the two distinctive features of Poet’s—the high front counter and the separate back room.

The other aspects of Poet’s were similar to many coffee shops. There were wooden tables with chairs, there were some couches and easy chairs, there was a normal selection of hot and cold coffees and teas, there was a small but reasonable offering of food items, and there was a display area with Poet’s mugs and local handmade jewelry. The ceilings were high; the floors were wood with a few rugs; the lighting was comfortable—not too bright and not too dim.

So I came away from my visit there with the two ideas of the back room, the glass store front, and the high counter against that store front.

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