I never knew how much work owning a café entailed until I owned a café. I had never managed people and inventory, the two components of the business that continue to be the most difficult. I had worked in food but never in my own place. In past jobs I tried to please customers but didn’t care if they returned. Now everything falls on me.
Buried below all the challenges, old, new, and recurring, lies the constant reward of witnessing my efforts appreciated by customers. I will have worked a seventy-hour week through nearly constant distractions, but by the end find that my efforts were worthwhile. Either sales will increase or customers will make a remark, and then I know the long days were not just long but purposeful.
Such purpose is often buried in a mix of ongoing projects that seem to be forever shuffled with no end in sight. I sleep poorly thinking of the business–there are stretches when I’m constantly at work, regardless of where I am or who I’m with. I try to focus on my wife and daughter but it takes time to relax and decompress.
I have developed a true fondness for coffee that I wish I had more time to explore. I use my free time to learn about coffee and espresso and then realize how blurred my distinction between work and life has become. I don’t know if it’s healthy, and as my back aches from filling in shifts for employees I love the thought of developing an expertise in the coffee business. I never before had such focus and it feels good.
I know it was the best decision to pursue my dream, but it’s not what I envisioned. I rarely get to relax with a cup of coffee, to serve that idyllic cappuccino, or to spend quality time with my family. In the future I’ll be able to enjoy these pleasures more frequently, but not yet.
I love to learn about my customers and engage them in the café. I love to tweak products, operations, and the store’s design. I love the freedom to set my own schedule and the control over my own professional destiny (though perhaps such control is merely perception). But I forego a lot. I see family and friends less often. My sleep is irregular and poor and I hardly ever feel rested. My back hurts much of the time and I feel like I’m constantly fixing something. Still, I’m content.