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    January 06, 2013

    Just bear with me for a second here...

    We went to early Mass this morning. Afterwards I was all, "Let's get a doughnut! We have TIME! Because we went EARLY! WHAT A BEAUTIFUL DAY!" (so goes the chirping of a Morning Person.) But the doughnut shop we like is kind of far from church so we headed to a nearby coffee shop instead. Sort of a snooty coffee shop. An AUTHENTIC SEATTLE coffee shop. One where you are supposed to be educated about your coffee, where the baristas go to espresso pulling competitions in Europe. It's a big place with free wifi, full of beaten up leather furniture and wooden tables and chairs and Serious Seattleites drinking their Serious Coffee. And we like this place. It used to be a "cool" place to study when we were in college. 

    But I don't know. I've always found it sort of... well, slightly unfriendly. Like I am not serious enough, not devoted enough to coffee (I DO drink decaf after all), maybe my pants are not tight enough and my glasses are not black plasticky enough. My scarf is not tied correctly. Then today, as I'm sitting there, attempting to get my children to eat their giant baked goods over their plates and not bump the person behind them and oh God please don't shriek in this holy house of coffee worship, I realized: it's just not very mom friendly. 

    So THEN I started telling Phillip that I was going to open my OWN coffee shop. A mom-and-baby-friendly coffee shop. A coffee shop that would CATER to the five-and-under set. Where you could plop your kid down while you go order and pay for your coffee. Where you don't have to worry about crumbs on the floor. Where no one is going to give you a Look because your kid is babbling and interrupting Studying or Newspaper Reading or Great American Novel Writing. Where there are sippy cups next to the pitchers of water. Kid-sized scones. A big table with a giant roll of Ikea paper and a bin of crayons in the center. An enclosed area for the tiny ones, with a bar and chairs around the outside so the parents can see it all, but not be IN it all. 

    I have been to a lot of local coffee shops with designated play areas for small children, but I haven't been to a coffee shop that is ITSELF a designated play area. 

    When Jack and Molly were babies my biggest thing was that our outings be EASY. I never got on board with my ambitious friends and their zoo and aquarium and children's museum passes. I wanted friends to come to my house or I wanted to be invited to their houses. I didn't want to see gorillas, I wanted to talk to my friends while our kids entertained themselves. You know? Is that so wrong? So bad? I wanted it to be EASY and INEXPENSIVE and fun for ME TOO. (TRANSLATION: AM LAZY.)

    Even now, I have to find a place to hang out with Molly and Emma, three mornings a week in between kindergarten and preschool drop off. There are about 4 or 5 coffee shop options and several months into this gig I still can't decide which is the best one for our annoying situation. One has a great kids play area, but it's very small and very quiet and the kids are often the only ones there and the treats are no good. One has GREAT coffee and a GREAT friendly vibe, but it's almost always packed and difficult to navigate and manage with kids. Another has coloring books and high chairs, but it's dark and you can't see your kid from the coffee-doctoring station. 

    I'd love a place where it's okay to find a seat and get your kids settled before you go up to the counter and order. Where you CAN leave a four-year-old alone at a table for five minutes. Where you can meet your other SAHM or part-time-working mom friends on a rainy weekday morning and everyone can be entertained. A plain cup of milk is an option. Where noise is ok. Where you aren't overwhelmed taking two big kids, a baby in an Ergo, a giant diaper bag, and everyone's coats and mittens because it will be a space that caters to you. FRIENDLY. 

    It would have to be Seattle-ish. It would need to feel independent and cute and a little quirky. There would be giant bulletin boards advertising things of interest to parents. There would be a giant sign showing you what is compostable, what is recyclable, and what is garbage. The treats would be organic, local, with gluten-free and vegan options - whatever the FPC thinks up because OBVS that is her department. But it wouldn't look like a preschool or a play gym or the church nursery, it would look like someone's super huge living room where you aren't afraid to spill on the couch. It would have to be RELAXED and CHILL and not the sort of place that makes you feel like you need to sign up for baby sign language classes AND gymnastics AND get a children's museum membership like all the GOOD moms. It's a place to HANG OUT. You know it rains a lot here, right? It's where you'd meet some friends on a very gray and rainy morning on a no-preschool day. YOU KNOW THOSE DAYS. 

    And it would need to also be a ministry of sorts - a place to hold fundraisers, a collection drop off spot for needy moms, a place for your bible study to meet, maybe there could even be a meeting room and occasional babysitters? It would somehow serve the community. It would help moms somehow - and not the moms who have the time and money to hang out at a coffee shop once or twice a week. 

    The coffee shop idea is not ENTIRELY new to me - long long ago I did the poor Northwest college student's spring break at Seaside, Oregon and ate breakfasts in a coffee house that was a HOUSE. Just a little house where you could go upstairs and hang out in any of the rooms to read. COOLEST COFFEE SHOP EVER. That's when I thought it'd be so neat to own one. And I've thought of it off and on since then, but dude. I have absolutely no business acumen, no experience, a somewhat lacking work ethic, and no interest in managing or making or investing or figuring out money (only spending it, please!) 

    It's the having a gathering place that appeals to me. I like providing a place to gather.

    As I talked to Phillip... HE is business-oriented. My sister has done the baking and knows how it works. My brother-in-law (her husband) is an EXCELLENT front-of-house guy. And I am good at things like labeling trays of cookies and being picky about website fonts. Which is, obvs, super useful. 

    ...

    Okay, so NOW it is SEVERAL HOURS LATER and while I still think this is the BEST! IDEA! EVER! I have floated down onto the lower lying Cloud Of HOW Much Money Would This Cost? And the fact that I have no experience. And how much work it is. And how there are, like, a frillion coffee shops in this town and why would MINE be better? What would make it different from this one

    (Maybe instead of "unique learning environment" my website would say "has liquor license.")

    But it sounds cool, right? It totally does. It even sounds FUN. 

    And with this angsty (but a DIFFERENT kind of angst than what we're used to on this website!) blog post, that's probably where it will end. Well. After I figure out a color scheme. And create a menu. And price out kid furniture at Ikea. And thumb throuh one of Phillip's books about business consulting. Aaaaaand HA HA HA THIS IS SO AMUSING TO YOU, ISN'T IT. 

     

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    Comments

    Do it! As you were describing it, I kept nodding my head. We have a coffee shop/bar in the town where we work that is small enough and friendly enough to make bringing kids there OK -- but only sometimes. Other times, it's totally inappropriate. Having a place where it's always OK would be wonderful.

    I would go there. A lot. And it would need to have affordable kid treats. Like you can buy a small blueberry muffin for fifty cents. There is an ice cream by weight place near our house and I like to take Elizabeth there because I can buy an Elizabeth sized portion of ice cream and not have to throw away three quarters of a six dollar ice cream.

    You know, my cousin-in-law (husband's cousin's wife? Seriously, though, we're super close) got a small business grant to start something like this in Indianapolis. They supposedly have something sort of like this in DC and NYC, but not so much in the Midwest, and apparently not in Seattle. I think it sounds great, and I would make my mother take me there when she picked me up from the airport before we embarked on the trek to Port Angeles. You should do it. And you should get someone else to give you some sort of community-building small-business type grant.

    It sounds lovely. Seriously.

    Everything you wrote from the play area with a bar to leaving the kids while you go order to having local and organic treats to being a ministry and having an area for meetings ... IT IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT.

    I would go there ALL THE TIME. People stare at me weirdly every time I go anywhere with my 4 kids ages 2 to 6.

    You need to go on a field trip to Vancouver. Here, specifically: http://www.sweetsalt.ca/

    We have a place kinda like that here called Cafe Au Play. It was awesome when we first moved here (pre-preschool!). They do have some tables/chairs, a cute coffee bar with treats/snacks, and then the rest is a couple couches, niceish toys, books, etc. I love that you could buy pieces of fruit separately, or hummus with veggies/chips, etc. Local music, puppet, kid friendly entertainment frequents the place as well.

    What would make yours better than the one you linked to? Yours would have a better website! ;)

    Also, on an unrelated note, Adam was folding laundry (specifically a fitted sheet) and he recalled that tutorial you posted waaaay long ago about it. Revolutionary!

    I think there have been some mommy kid oriented coffeeshops in seattle in the past. I think one was on Madison and one was kinda near u village. Currently Mosaic in wallingford has a big room dedicated to kids & parents. There's also a parent/kids coffee shop in country village in Bothell.
    The original Vios in capitol hill had a play area With some seating around it. They've remodeled and i can't remember how it affected the kid space.

    Nice idea. If it was convenient to where i live I'd go.

    It's true that there are places like Twirl and whatever that place at Country Village in Bothell is called. I find them to be expensive and not that great as hangout spots. But more importantly, they are not NEAR me. North Seattle/Shoreline is greatly lacking in places like that.

    Look into it. What's the harm? You might get more excited about it, or you might encounter some roadblocks and have to let it go. But you know that parents will go crazy for it.

    There is a huge empty former coffee shop for lease near my house. I'm just saying. :)

    Oh, come build this in Maryland! I have dragged my kids to Panera just so I can have coffee with my mom friends and just tried to keep them entertained. It is rough. I would so totally go to your coffee shop!

    I'm with Jess, come to Maryland. I would totally go to this sort of place. Mornings are the best times for parents with little ones to meet. When you are up early, might as well make the most of it and meet with friends.
    Go for it Maggie!!!

    Can I say it again? KICKSTARTER.

    I would hang out at your cafe!

    BTW- Twirl serves alcohol. :) But it too is a cafe started by a mom who had an idea. Her kids are still really little, but she had an idea and chased it!

    The Country Village coffee shop in Bothell is called Village Bean. It is appreciated, especially for toddlers. But, it can be LOUD--too loud to nurse peacefully. I advocate a quiet nursing room, section, or corner where some peace is reserved for nursing moms and babies (who often get distracted).

    You should do this. And then franchise it so I can do it down here. I like places to just BE, too. I prefer a playdate in someone's house over a trip... anywhere. That's why I have a playroom packed full of toys, because I like have a space where the kids can be insane, a little bit separate from the place where the adults can chat. DO IT. (Also, I've read these coffee shop posts in reverse order, so I've seen all of your other thoughts on this. I'm totally on board. Remotely. In a cheerleader sort of way.)

    Maybe instead of the hassle of a liquor license yours can be BYOB and you can offer drinks that go well with Baileys :)

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