Drinking coffee, building community

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A few words kept coming to mind when I started to write about work and my work story: gratitude and community; faith and ownership; creativity. I have been lucky in my life to have worked at many jobs that have been interesting, labor-intensive, and often, challenging.

Currently I am owner of the Blue Moon Coffee Cafe in Minneapolis. I am glad to say that after 12 years I am not done learning. I was fortunate in 1994 to meet someone who would be my business partner for most of that time. Though we came from different backgrounds and had different ideas about what a coffeehouse could be, things worked out very well. Last year, after successfully running two businesses together, we ended our partnership.

When I was looking to have a business (and not have a boss), I wanted to provide myself with time and energy to learn how to write poetry (which is another kind of work that I do). It’s easy for me to think about the work and rewards of poetry; they are similar to the work and rewards of owning a business. I am thrilled and grateful for words and symbols and ideas. Writing is one way I am able to touch on those things. Working at the coffeehouse is another way. Each day, I hear the noise of the business: dishes clinking together, people talking and music playing. I watch the conversations and notice that all sorts of people meet here, that to all of them, it is somehow their place. I believe over and over, each day that enough people will come here and take ownership of this space to sustain it-not just financially, but sustaining its spirit as a place separate from home and certain kinds of work; where the work of relationships can happen and where people have respite from daily demands. It is amazing to be part of a gathering place where some of the main activities are lingering and building community.

The Blue Moon is organic-yes, it’s a living thing and I get to participate in that. It is daunting sometimes to constantly re-create a business without disrupting its continuity. We have been fortunate with employees who are kind and interesting and trustworthy. They and our customers are the people who provide continuity for this little speck in the universe that has been part of so many lives.

Whenever I am asked to consult with people about starting their own businesses, I ask three questions. First, is what you are saying you want to do really something you want to do and may have to do every day for a long time? Second, what has brought you to this decision and will that sustain you during difficulties in the life of the business? And third, are you being truthful about what you require of your business financially and otherwise?

Each year, I ask myself these questions and try to make sure that way more often than not, I am comfortable with my answers. Meanwhile, I get to go into my work each day, have a cup of coffee, hear and see people doing whatever it is they do. I might try to write a poem or have a visit or do bills, but always in the company of friends and not-yet-friends who in one way or another can enjoy this little place.

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