Sunday, July 6, 2008

Economie au Lait

This morning, I witnessed the sagging economy brought home. I stopped for a quick Americano at my favorite local coffee shop, Cafe au Lait, here in the north suburbs of Atlanta. Without thinking, I arrived a few minutes before the shop actually opened, but the proprietor, having seen me many times, promptly served me up a piping hot 16 oz. Americano and a small cinnamon roll. I was going walking, after all, and I needed some sustenance. At first, I felt a little self-conscious sipping my coffee and reading Creative Loafing while the owner moved the outdoor cafe tables and chairs into place, but the delightful zing of the coffee put that to rest.

I asked the owner how business was going this summer. The shop is adjacent to a local high school, and during the school year, both the counter and drive-thru lane are jammed each and every weekday morning. And on any given fall, winter, or spring weekend, the shop has a good crowd by 8:30 AM. But the owner said that business was slow this summer. Expenses for everything are soaring: milk, labor, supplies, you name it, to the extent that even Starbucks is affected. In those early morning moments, I could tell that something at the cafe was on hold, and that we were marking time until the sunnier days returned.

The thing is, Cafe au Lait is a beautifully appointed little shop with some of the best coffee in Atlanta, and ironically, it is just what the neighborhood needs in these stressful times. In fact, I've taken people there when they've had bad days just to cheer them up, and it has always seemed to work. I know that the economy will eventually turn around, and I hope that when it does, Cafe au Lait will have a long line at the counter and plenty of double chocolate muffins on hand. I love those things.