Coffee in my hand and an overcast sky. The perfect combination for my visit to The Frederick Coffee Company & Café in Downtown Frederick.
Flavors of the Day:
Coffee – Oatmeal Cookie Crumble.
Latte – Samoa (Chocolate, Coconut, & Caramel).
The weather has been all over this place this year, just like the first draft of a novel. Half-thought out story lines. Characters rebelling against my plans for them. Loosely fitting chapters with no golden arrow stringing them together. But as I sit at the high counter and sip my coffee, I realize that a coffee shop and a novel aren’t much different. There’s a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into producing an atmosphere. A style. A brand. Both begin as something and become more.
What can a writer learn from a coffee shop? More than one realizes. Consistency and connection are key in both.
Consistency is in the atmosphere of the building on 100 N East St., Frederick Street. The owner of the Frederick Coffee Company & Café knows a thing about customer service, given the more than twenty-five years in the business. Regulars and newcomers alike know what to expect from a place offering indoor and outdoor seating. They gravitate towards this place. With good reason.
A daily selection of four coffees is available in bold, mild, specialty, and decaf, not to mention the lattes and mochas. Breakfast sandwiches, bagels and pastries, Ken’s French Toast are staples. There’s also a delicious lunch with fresh-made soups and sandwiches. A bakery case full of desserts for mornings or late nights.
The problem out of how to stand out in an any industry is the ultimate question. Competition for coffee shops are on every corner of these streets with their brick buildings. So? How does The Frederick Coffee Company & Café set themselves apart? For one, the product of great cup of coffee is elevated to an experience. Offered weekly and/or monthly are several options for being involved with the community. Entertainment like the Sunday Songwriters. Open Mic Nights. Poetry Readings. Live music. A Chess Club. A Gamer’s Club. Local artwork for sale. An activity board full of flyers about activities in the area.
A cup of coffee is now a chance to join something bigger. To have a connection. That’s the heart of this place.
Every time I stop by for some coffee, I spot a group of men with a Reserved Sign at their table. They have my attention (settle down ladies, I know you’re thinking). Who are they and why should I care? The writer in me asks another question. What’s their story?
They are the Frederick Coffee Club. For the last twelve years, five mornings a week, they meet here, although the club itself is more than forty-years old. They have incredible backgrounds (including a former Director for Camp David and a pioneer in Maryland School for the Deaf). They show up, they talk, and there’s a plaque on the wall where their names get added when they pass away. They could meet anywhere, but they choose here. Each day they are welcome. Their coffee goes beyond a hot drink. A morning in those chairs is meaningful. Their group identifies with the city, with the changes, but they remain loyal. They, have a table.
A writer also needs a table. A dependable place to hash out a story line. Many elements are beyond a writer’s control. These are similar to those a coffee shop experiences. Disruption in trends, the economy, over saturation of a fierce market. Staying true to a brand goes a long way. Riding out shifts of the industry. There’s a reason a reader selects the same author again and again: quality, constancy, and reacting to the writing. The author knows how to draw you back in, to make you sit a little longer, to finish the story. Because you want to connect.
Readers long for a story they know themselves. Chapters full of real emotion, dialogue, struggles, mistakes. These characteristics are central to the story. A writer can’t write for everybody. A coffee shop can’t cater to one crowd. I set the tone and I go forward. Eventually, readers move towards books by the same authors. Then they will recommend them. Word-of-mouth is a powerful force. That’s the art of creating something bigger than a book. Something set apart from a cup of coffee.
The challenge is to figure out what is worth your time. Everyone won’t love every author. Everyone won’t enjoy every coffee shop. The key is to understand when something is right, it’s right. Here’s to the Frederick Coffee Company & Café—you get it right.