In Praise of Local Business

“Do you know what my wife usually orders?” I asked at the Oak Grove Coffeehouse this morning. I wanted to bring her a surprise. Kris stops there once or twice a week, but I don’t go in very often. I don’t like coffee. I guess I should know what Kris orders (since she orders the same thing every time), but I don’t. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to guess.

Jason, the owner, thought for a moment. “She orders a medium latte extra-hot,” he said.

“Who’s your wife?” asked the kid behind the counter.

“Her name’s Kris,” I said. “Long red hair. Works for the crime lab.”

“Oh, Kris,” he said. “I love Kris.”

“Yeah,” said Jason. “CSI Milwaukie.” Everybody laughed.

“Do you want anything?” the kid asked as he took my money. The coffee was $2.75, but I left $1.25 for a tip.

“Nah,” I said. “I don’t like coffee. Besides, I just walked up the the grocery store, and I have donuts and chocolate milk in my bag.”

I love this sort of thing. I love local businesses owned by community members. (I bumped into Jason a couple of weeks ago as he was leaving his home to go to the coffee shop. I was walking down the hill as he was walking out his driveway to go up the hill.) This is the precisely the sort of thing I want to support over shops like Starbucks, etc.

And yet I rarely frequent the Oak Grove Coffeehouse myself. As I said, I don’t like coffee. I’m not a fan of their hot chocolate. It’s vastly superior to Starbuck’s hot chocolate (which basically tastes like muddy water), but it’s still made the same way: add some chocolate syrup to milk and heat.

All the same, I could be giving the shop some of my trade. At lunch, they serve sandwiches. Also, they have a few breakfast croissants every morning. And they carry Mexican Coke. I’ll bet they have bottled water, too. It’s important to me that Jason and his family are able to make a profit from their shop, yet I don’t do much myself to support them. In fact, I’m sort of a drain on their income.

Today, for example, as I was walking out the door, Jason stopped me and gave me a lemon pastry. “Take it,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “It’s from yesterday, and I’ll just have to throw it out if you don’t take it.” Jason’s given me stuff in the past, including free drinks. I’m grateful for this, but I feel bad. I want to be adding to his income, not taking away from it.

I guess maybe I should make a point of eating lunch at the Oak Grove Coffeehouse once each week. I wonder what sort of sandwiches they have…

Addendum: Kris and I had lunch with Susan this afternoon, and she pointed out that I forgot to end the story. “Were they right?” she asked. “Did they get Kris’ drink order correct?” Indeed they did. Kris orders a medium extra-hot latte.