Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Most days during the week, I take my daughter to school in Kearny Mesa and then make the drive down to North Park to spend the day working at one of a small handful of familiar coffee shops that offer breakfast, lunch and free WiFi. This morning, in an attempt to save gas and expand my horizons, I decided to use the Google Speak feature on my phone to find a coffee shop closer to my daughter’s school.
I skipped past the obvious big chains at the top of the list and chose one that looked promising due to its proximity and my unfamiliarity with its name: Earthblend Tea & Coffee. I called to make sure they had WiFi and food other than mere muffins. The plan was to stay all day if they’d let me, and to possibly add it to my list of non-chain options around town.
When I arrived, I was pleased to see that it was quiet inside and that there were plenty of tables available. I had imagined the place would be full of people like me looking to support a locally owned business while getting work done on their laptops. But it was quiet and spacious, only three tables occupied, two of which were outside.
I was further delighted when I saw the list of options available for breakfast.
I chose a carrot muffin and an iced coffee.
The muffin was sweet and overly cakey (in that it tasted like cake), though had I asked for a piece of cake, I would have rather enjoyed its sweet and spicy qualities (was that cardamom?). The coffee washed it down well.
Although the tables were small and didn’t provide quite enough room for my laptop, my muffin, AND my elbows, I was pleased at their height. At a petite 5’2” (yes, I stick by the 5’2”, despite my husband’s insistence that this number is a stretch), a low table makes my work much easier. And lucky for me, the table I chose was right next to a power strip.
So, you can see how I got the impression that this place was a major score. It made me feel hopeful about the future not only of local coffee shops, but also of local bookstores, and other local retailers. It would be, I decided, my mission to continue to seek out more such places so people would know about (and frequent) them.
And then. . .
. . .when I asked for the whereabouts of the loo, the girl behind the counter said, “Um, I think the nearest one’s at the Valero.”
I almost laughed, thinking she had to be joking, but sure enough, I had to walk across the parking lot (in heels, damn it) and over to the gas station.
(To be fair, the girls behind the counter promised to keep an eye on my things while I was gone.)
Please understand that their bathroom wasn’t broken or otherwise out of order. They just don’t let customers use it. There is a sign in the window that says, ‘No Public Restrooms,’ but I figured it was equivalent to ‘We won’t let you use the restroom if you’re not a paying customer.’
I know some businesses don't like to encourage people to stick around all day. But even before WiFi, coffee shops were places where people hung out for long periods of time. I don’t get it. This place offers coffee, food, smoothies, WiFi, tables, chairs, outlets, and quiet - everything that would seem encourage you to get comfortable and stay awhile. But no bathrooms?
If it’s not illegal, it should be.