This weekend, my wife and son visited Cranky Al's & Mrs. Java, our favorite local coffee and donut shop. Of course we had a great time in their little storefront shop, sipping good coffee, eating hand-cranked donuts, and interacting with fellow visitors.
Al and Suzy are quite the fixture in the small community where they operate and they have done this in just a few short years. Its as if they're a community gathering spot, offering a welcome place for kids to grandparents and everyone in-between — even hip young singles and couples in the area.
It has something to do with good coffee, donuts an pastries, but it also has something to do with their real personalities and the environment they've created at the shop. They are active participants in creating this friendly, homey environment, which is quite different from a more corporate setting of a Starbucks. It's something more like being in a small town bakery, coffee shop or greasy spoon diner.
For instance, it's not unusual to walk into the shop and have Cranky Al bark some friendly, yet cranky comments at you. If someone orders an espresso drink, Al will shout "FANCY COFFEE!" and immediately move to the next customer, letting the barrista handle the lattés and cappuccinos. To the kids he might offer, "Hey, line up along the counter and have your choice ready, this is a donut shop, not K-Mart!". In between friendly jibes at customers, comments pop out such as "Cranky Al's donuts, they're Krispy and Kremey!"
On the surface it sounds cranky, but you immediately know it's an endearing welcome, similar to the crankiness waitresses feign at Ed Debevic's 50's burger shops. Of course you have to have a sense of humor to detect this — which I imagine might be a problem for too-uptight, literal visitors. :-)
As a final example of this cranky yet funny and friendly humor, this is the text of sign posted on their donut counter:
"Unattended children will be given two shots of espresso and a puppy"
I think it's wonderful that a place like Cranky Al's and Mrs. Java exist for people to visit. In a world where chain stores and corporate attempts at homeyness are so prevalent, a genuine instance brings a smile to my face and my tummy. :-)