Sunday, February 7, 2010

It Takes A Village

I've often mentioned our generous and kind neighbors on this blog. I want to clarify that I'm not referring to one or two neighbors - but virtually every single one of our neighbors. We are really blessed to live in a true community, where we can walk down the street and greet each other by name and truly know that we have this incredible support system to call on when we need it.

jb and I are both city-dwellers by nature, but are also very family oriented and fairly traditional (as far as 20-something lesbians go). We always assumed that there would be certain things we'd have to give up in order to live within the city limits, but somehow we managed to stumble upon this small-town of a neighborhood just across the bridge from downtown. I can't really put into words how exactly this little community feels, but it's nicest sort of nice. I guess the best way to explain would be to give some examples of the things that give us warm fuzzies:

  • Ever since we opened the cafe (just over two years ago) we've had a consistent and growing group of regular customers. Some come every weekday morning, some come for breakfast on Saturdays and/or Sundays, some come to do work over coffee in the afternoons - but all are super supportive and dedicated to seeing us succeed. There are some customers that haven't missed a Saturday in two years!
  • The neighborhood has a lot of parties - like a lot of parties. We have block parties on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day. We all meet in the street, bring a dish to share and talk and eat and drink while the neighborhood kids run up and down the street. Not to mention the Christmas Party, St. Patrick's Day Party, New Years Day brunch - plus the "bonus" parties (seriously, the G20 party was the best party I've ever been to - complete with each guest being assigned a country and bringing food from said country with many people also dressing up in traditional clothing and/or presenting power point presentations on their country).
  • Volunteering. Most neighbors volunteer for neighborhood events and/or beautification. The Christmas tour, the spirits tour, the Queen Victoria tea, planting flowers in the spring, hanging decorations around the holidays, and seasonal clean-up days. On several occasions we've had neighbors hang decorations in the shop windows and plant new flowers in our planters outside. Such nice touches that we just love, but would most likely not get around to on our own.
  • General generosity and support. We've experienced this personally on many occasions - from touching tokens and cards we've received at the holidays, to the avalanche of awesome baby stuff that has been handed-down or loaned to us since the day we announced we were expecting (crib, monitor, diaper bag, pack'n'play, maternity coat, other maternity clothes, puzzles, cloth diapers, clothes...), to the general - "oh you want this, I think I have one at home..." (air conditioner, sewing machine...). We've also had the privilege of being able to witness lots of inter-neighbor support. There are always people buying gift certificates from the shop because so-and-so just had a baby or so-and-so had surgery.
  • The treatment of jb and our family. Now, I think jb is just the greatest person to have ever walked the face of this earth - but not everyone is perceptive enough to pick up on that right away, especially when the circumstances of their meeting involve jb being behind the counter in a service industry job position. When we were first considering opening the cafe, that was one of our (many) concerns. Do we really want jb to be working in the service industry indefinitely? We both had some pretty horrific stories from working barista and waitressing jobs in DC - and knew the grueling, thankless work that goes into serving the public. But really, it has been a pleasure to serve our neighbors. That's not to say that it still doesn't take a lot out of jb to be on her feet all day everyday, and there is still the occasional difficult customer that comes through the doors (but they are amazingly the exception, not the rule), but overall our "public" is more like a family that truly cares about jb and our brothers and sisters working behind the counter.
  • Spreading the word. This kind of ties into the first point about our customers rooting for us to succeed. Our customers are always trying to get others to come in to the shop - by bringing friends who otherwise might not come, by blogging and use of social media, by voting for us in "best of" surveys, and by good old-fashioned talking us up.
  • The snowstorm this weekend. The snowstorm this weekend threw us for quite a loop. We were under the (very mistaken) impression that because of the storm no one would be coming out (except maybe one or two of our hardcore regulars) and we would be closing the store early and enjoying hot chocolate on the couch together. Well, none of our baristas were able to make it in - but most of customers were very happy we were open and were coming in droves. So poor jb was working the shop single-handedly on perhaps the busiest day the store has ever seen. Of course, we quickly ran out of many vital ingredients - and a couple of our customers actually WALKED to the store for us to bring back milk, eggs, tomatoes, etc so that jb could continue to pump out lattes and omelets :) They were also ready to roll up their sleeves and help wash the dishes, but that's where jb drew the line.
This is getting long, so I'll leave it at that - but I think you get the picture. We feel so lucky - and I think this kind of fellowship is especially important to jb and me. The demands of the cafe can really take over our lives, leaving little time to nurture the relationships that are important to us. There have been times we have felt really isolated socially - but then we realize that we have this awesome network of friends and neighbors right at the center of those efforts. It truly makes the shop a labor of love.

On top of all this we are fortunate enough to have our families nearby and to live in a location where we can walk to a long list of great places:
  • Museums (Warhol, Mattress Factory, Carnegie Science Center, Children's Museum, Aviary)
  • Parks and Trails
  • Farmers' Market
  • Library
  • Stadiums (PNC and Heinz)
  • Restaurants
  • Kayaking on the river or the little "Lake" near our home
All in all, I'm really grateful for our neighborhood, neighbors, family and city at large. If, as the saying goes, it really does take a village to raise a child - then I think we are in a pretty good position as we bring this little monkey into the world.

*To drive my point home - as I was typing this post, one of the men at the Harbor Light Center (the Salvation Army recovery center across the street from us) dug out our car from under more than 20 inches of snow.


  1. Wow - I'm so glad for you that you live in such an awesome place! I'm almost ready to move! That is truly the kind of place I would love to live:) you gals rock - and the restaurant sounds amazing:)

  2. 'the nicest sort of nice.' i'm gonna have to steal that one.

  3. Seriously, I love the Northside -- not that this type of community is unique to the Northside (I think a lot of Pittsburgh is like this) but I appreciate where I live even more then I did before the storm. Thanks for the lovely post.