Thursday, October 14, 2004

Take Me To Tea 

We missed the 2004 Tea Convention, and it seems a pity, because those people, judging by the seminars they presented, know what they are talking about much better than the bread people did.

The seminars were much more focused towards the start-up with such workshops as Opening a Tea Shop, Seeking Financing, What to Expect from Wholesalers, Health and Nutrition of Tea, Effective Marketing, Branding, Cross Merchandising, How to Blend Teas, Making your Own Flavorings, Pairing Teas with Foods. Of course, there were fun workshops, too, like reading tea leaves, the history of teas, a tea tasting, making gift baskets, and creating ambiance.

Imagine of some of these workshops had been applied to baking. Can see a workshop on pairing coffees or teas with your special cookies?

One thing we noticed as we checked out various bakeries across the country was a lack of ambiance in the bakeries. They were functional. The seating (in those bakeries that had them) was plain and sparse. The floors were often plain cement or plain limoleum (except some of the older bakeries back east, which had plank flooring) and walls were also plain, decorated predominantly with in-store advertising.

There's nothing wrong with functional. No doubt a goodly portion of the Cracked Cauldron will appear functional, too. But where was the fun?

A few bakeries also shared space with gift shops, china and nick-nacks crammed onto table tops and crate-style shelves, ocassionally filling antique furniture also for sale - and that had a junk shop type charm.

Coffee shops had a theme going on, but again, it was mostly functional. I mean, think of Starbuck's. Linoleum floors, white walls maybe with some menus plastered on them, chrome and glass furniture, employees hidden behind tall counters, a green pressboard cabinet for cream and sugars and open refrigerator cases with bottled drinks. Cold, sterile, get-in-get-out.

Panera's, pretty much the same way, except the seating is vinyl and wood veneer.

Will's, a local coffeeshop, does a bit better. The furniture is slightly more "cozy", and there is an attempt to have some decor that isn't functional. The barista is still ensconced almost invisibly behind a high counter.

That's not what we want for the Cracked Cauldron.

We want our Coffee Monkeys to be visible. We want our breads and pastries to be easy to see and reach. We've already planned to display art and photos for sale from local artists or artists who display locally at art shows like the City Arts Festival and the Medieval Faire. The look should be cozy and inviting. The longer people linger inside the Cracked Cauldron, the more they'll spend on coffees, teas, and little pastries. Those 75¢ pastries add up.

We will want "spill-proof" flooring, easy to clean, and eventually, a lovely mosaic type floor would be nice, one that defines areas, and makes an attractive but subtle pattern.

There will be a "reading" area from the beginning, although all it may contain are trade journals and homeless reports to start with. If the landlord does put in a fireplace, that's where it will go.

And a performance area for the Open Mike Night, Poetry Night, Scheduled Performers, and Punday Night.

When the Cracked Cauldron is open more than 5 days a week, we'll add in a Storytelling Night, and maybe a second Open Mike Night for just music.

See, the Cracked Cauldron will truly be abaking up the memories for people with yummies, pretties, and Things To Do.

It has to be more than functional, it has to be inviting.

And that's what we didn't find in all the bakeries we toured.

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