There are three — at least — definitions, way I see it. Maybe more. Maybe way more, but I started with three in general. Keep it simple?
- Jim’s Coffee Shop — as an example. “Jim’s” to me. Coffee Shop as a diner. Simple fare. Great place. One location, I was frequently greeted as “72,” as a reference to my age. Always lie up. It’s a traditional coffee shop, a real diner, and pre-COVID? Many of the Jim’s locations were 24-hour. With a right and proper diner bar for counter culture..
The old, long-gone Earl Abel’s might be the model for this kind of coffee shop, long history, pie, coffee. That’s one kind of coffee shop. The classic diners, think an Edward Hopper painting. That’s one image, coffee, by the gallon, not great coffee, but not too bad, either, usually fresh-brewed, from coffee pots with brown or orange rings and handles? A perfect example of one kind of coffee shop.
Perhaps traditional in its name, and traditional in its appearance. Denny’s, iHoP, and other corporate entities can fall under this type of classification, and locations vary. Used to be a great one in old Corpus Christi, called “U&I.” No idea if it is still there, early career stuff, and the location as another place of legend. These are coffee shops that are diners, too. Certainly, easily, fulfills the definitions of one kind of coffee shop.
- Independent coffee corners, another variation of the term, “Coffee Shop.” The independents are even more amusing these days, there’s a brand that started as a small outfit with an eye to just carefully prepared coffee, and the cute moniker, Local Coffee. One place in London captured the proper look and feel, as did another, and I can’t find my image or link. I just had a mental image of a London bike courier pausing long enough to slam down an espresso, then look at a phone for another dispatch.
The independent coffee shops, though, not affiliated with a corporate hierarchy, just a place with a few tables, and a hulking, gleaming espresso machine behind the counter, with a tired, or otherwise distracted worker, happy to see customers? I’m not sure. To a certain extent, in my limited experience, the colossal London chain, Nero’s did a creditable job, Italian, espresso-roast, out of the machine properly, and I hadn’t seen the little spigot and bail thing handled like that since the old days in Austin, at another one-off, independent coffee shop (The Hideout, from days gone by.) The independents always offer some vestigial form of counter culture.
That is certainly a class of coffee shop, varying by degrees, and fitting the terms, and taxonomy, properly. Like it should be. I would suspect that many will be victims in a post-corona world.
- The final portion of this list, though, treads the line between that notion of what an independent “coffee shop” looks and feels like, and the world-wide behemoth, Starbucks. Technically, just about every Starbucks location is, indeed, a coffee shop. Locally, to be sure, no indoor seating at the time being, and not really a place to congregate, but valid as locations fitting the term, coffee shop.
At one time or another, I made the point that Starbucks was the best of the worst. Not an ideal solution, but in the far reaches of West Texas, desperate for something besides gas station swill, the emotional equivalent of a fortified beverage?
I have images from a Starbucks in Amarillo, I think, maybe one in Midland, El Paso, Corpus Christi, and so forth. My memory runs deep —
Each place fits the definition of “Coffee Shop,” yet each place is a totally different concept. The idea that the space defines what the place is, what is served, and how it is served. That middle group, thinking my way through it, that middle group, there were several independents in and around Corpus Christi1. Thinking about fishing, now that there’s been a warm, clear day, thinking about fishing again, wondering how the freeze will affect the fish, I recall, in Port Aransas, a place near the beach with the little sign over the drive-thru window, “You’re on island time, impatience isn’t part of the vocabulary.” Could stop and get coffee before launching from the marina.
Another place was in old downtown Corpus Christi, and it’s been many years, maybe a half dozen, two hurricanes, or more. Coffee, coffee shop with WiFi, and fans, over the counter, gently waving like palm fronds, fresh baked goods on display. The name was from an original coffee importer, working out of the Port of Corpus Christi.
To go down that line of recollections, though, there was a coffee shop (diner) in Aransas Pass, where the narrow isthmus to the ferry and the highway met. Lovely neon sign, don’t know if the place is still there, survive countless hurricanes to be wiped out by the corona?
With the term, “Coffee Shops,” the definitions, descriptions, ideologies, and presentations vary. It’s a term that conjures up different understandings. I got three, kind of general, but close enough, to work with.