The question I get asked the most is, “how do you like owning a coffee shop?” (That’s not true. The most common question is, “you’re a writer, huh? What do you write?” And when I respond, “horror zombie steampunk novels, some sci-fi, and some Cthulu fan fic,” I get in response: “But you seem like such a nice girl.” But, for the purposes of this blog, I’ll pretend that the former question is more prevalent.)
I’ve worked in coffee for almost a decade now. That’s pretty much more than a third of my life. My first job is still the one I have, basically. Out of it, I’ve gotten amazing heat immunity in my hands, a resistance to all forms of caffeine, and espresso eternally encrusted under each fingernail.
Now, because of it, I have a small business. I worked for my previous employer, Michele, for about six years before she asked if I wanted to buy the store off of her because she was moving away to Durango, CO. I jumped at the chance and it’s been a year later.
There have been many ups and downs. I feel that just now I’m getting the hang of everything I have to do. A rhythm has appeared and knowing that things come in waves and cycles helps a lot, instead of just being a scared Russian Lit major wondering why she never took a business class. (Answer: too many bros.)
It eats up a lot of time. When I graduated college with said Russian Literature degree, I told myself — after a stint as a receptionist at an electrical company run by my father — that I would focus on writing, since I couldn’t do that all throughout high school and college. It’s difficult, knowing that I have to put writing on the back burner, once again, in order to pursue my other passion of serving great coffee and having a place where people can enjoy themselves.
It’s also probably the biggest thing I’ve done to make my parents — especially my father — proud. They’ve always supported me, but raised a few eyebrows when I said I wanted to be an author, around age 7, and then again, when I majored in something rarely useful outside of academia. He’s owned his own business for more than twenty years now and he feels proud knowing I’ve followed in his footsteps.
That also opens the door for a lot of pressure from him. They never got angry if I didn’t get straight As (which I ALWAYS did), but the unsaid thing was that anything less was unacceptable. I’ve been a perfectionist for a while and the coffee shop doesn’t help. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to berating myself if something goes wrong.
Which many, many things have.
Refrigerators broke. Pipes broke. Neon signs broke. Sanitizing machines broke. I had to buy 40 boxes of coffee sleeves and 50 boxes of sprinkles. A lot of my first 8 months’ worth of profit went back into the shop for repairs and inventory. (But, hey, at least there was a profit!) Having my dad wonder why the shop isn’t as profitable as it was under Michele (yo, loans, different payroll, increase in rent, etc.) is difficult to deal with, on top of everything else.
The big shiny finish line, however, is knowing that years from now, if I stick with it, I’ll have a prosperous business that will allow me to set my own hours and give time for writing. I’m already down to working just five days a week (ONLY FIVE?!), and I’m trying to alternate between five and four to allow more writing time.
It’ll depend on business, however.
I get asked a lot if I’m glad I did it. The truthful answer is: I don’t know yet. I would probably make the same decision over, but it’s been a lot harder than I thought it would be, with more stress than I’ve had since my senior year of college, defending a thesis and trying to graduate in three years with a 3.9 GPA.
Let’s just say it’s been interesting and shall, more than likely, continue to be so.