It was a dream, a vision. I started thinking about a gourmet coffee shop in the fall of 1993. Good coffee was just coming on the scene in Pittsburgh. Chains like The Coffee Beanery and a few locals like Arabica and La Prima Espresso were the groundbreakers.
The main reason I wanted to start my own coffee shop was because I had grown tired of running into Pittsburgh (a twenty mile drive) every time I craved espresso. Home machines were not on the scene yet so there I was, driving into town every chance I got.
I went to work for the Beanery at the Pittsburgh airport that year, in preparation for opening my own store. In retrospect, it would have been good to be a manager but I had sales background after all, and my kids were still young. Management was a big commitment and full time. I needed to just work part time.
After months of learning to make really good cappuccinos and lattes (I once waited on Jessica Lange!), Jim and I started looking around for a good location. On our 13th wedding anniversary and right after a solar eclipse (I kid you not), we saw a For Rent sign in a perfect, full of windows, location right on the main street in Sewickley, PA.
All of our friends and family pitched in to help. I called in the many favors that my husband had done for others over the years. 😉 But I didn’t have to ask twice. They came to paint, patch, install, and be a part of our business. They brought us start up gifts. We were very blessed.
We went in early on our very first day of business only to find that our auction acquired coffee brewer was not working correctly. I had a thirty cup percolater from my days as a Tupperware manager, so we brewed coffee in that until the repair person showed up. We didn’t worry about it; we were on a high from the people, the coffee, and the excitement.
Over the years, we developed a strong, loyal following. We hung a mug rack up on the wall and asked our regulars to bring in their own mugs. We had a children’s table and small toys on the upper landing and welcomed kids with cookies and frothy steamers (warm milk with flavor shots). Local teens asked to play guitar and bring their friends- we said yes. Local politicians frequented our place as did the chief of police, who had his coffee with us every morning while he read the daily paper.
The best of all was our employees. Over the seven years we owned CC, Jim and I hired and trained at least twenty young men and women who became like family. We had three Garys plus Corinne, Jen, Becky, Gideon, and many more. Some of them invited us to their weddings and stayed in touch. Thank goodness for social media. I can see regular pictures of their beautiful children.
Those employees affected our lives in a positive way and hopefully, we made a difference in theirs. As I always say, it is easy to be a terrible manager; it takes work to be a good manager. Hopefully (most of the time) I was a good manager.
If it wasn’t for the major competitor that came in a block away (we were only there 15 months when it happened), I venture to say we might still be there. But even so, here’s to everyone who ever worked at CC and every customer who sipped our awesome mocha latte, ate a lemon scone, or sang on our landing. If you laughed or met friends there, stopped in for a coffee and a visit, or relaxed after a hard day with us, we thank you. It was worth it. Every minute.
If you have any great pictures from Cappuccino City, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll add them to this post. Thank you!