These are tough to write. We know we're going to forget someone or something important. But it must be done.
And it must be done now as on Wednesday, this site goes to redirect mode. We're assuming their site will be live by then :-)
In short, back on December 30, 2004, we opened with the thought that we'd try to do something different than yet another Starbucks knockoff. We'd do something radical for Pittsburgh for that time - we'd study brewing, serve only really good ethically sourced coffee, train appropriately and see where it took us.
Some of it worked. A lot of it didn't. Over the next seven years we converted a lot of people to our way of thinking about coffee. We pissed off a lot of others (well, Rich and a couple others did, anyway). Which brings us to a pet peeve:
People really need to look up pretentious in the dictionary before slinging it around. You're using it wrong. If someone can actually deliver the goods, it ain't pretentious, folks. If we charged you another two bucks and presented your coffee under a silver dome with some exaggerated performance while your drink got cold, yeah, then you'd have a point. But the way coffee is brewed and presented here is far from pretentious. It's simple. It's true. It's what we say it is. If you think all coffee should be about a buck and taste like a tire, that's your problem, not ours.
Whew. Feels better to get that out of our system. It wouldn't be us without saying something :-)
Anyway, talking to folks who came in this week, even we were stunned by the number of people who've been near-daily regulars for four, five and six years or more. Not all of them coffee drinkers. Lots of chai and tea folks too.
We hope they'll stay with the new owners. It'll be the same coffee, chai and tea for now.
We never had kids. It wasn't planned that way, just never happened. So a few of our baristas became surrogate kids. As a result we have an extended family we hope will stay together for years to come. Lauren, Melinda, Belle, Frank, Ruthie, Johnny C., Alyse and on the current crew, Clara, Sam and Max all became our "kids" at some point. It's been fun watching them grow up.
We had fun with customers (sometimes even for a cause). And then we had more fun with other baristas. We tried to play well with others. We were always transparent (and often misunderstood because of that).
We actually had 72 people in here once for a tango band. Don't know why we thought of that just now, but we did. And we had a steel drum band play. It was really loud. Bad idea. We've had many. But we'll take credit for having the first dog water bowl on Washington Road. And we will miss spending our Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings with you here in the cafe.
We tried to be innovative where it made sense. We were the first Pittsburgh coffeehouse to blog. Possibly the first to tweet (seems none of those "find your first tweet" services work well or we'd post our first). We glommed onto Flickr when it became the new hotness. We even tried to get all Washington Road businesses to create an umbrella online presence. We were proficient enough at social media that early on we were probably better known nationally than we were within the South Hills.
On the coffee side, we competed and did well. We looked at the Clover (you didn't think much of it). We tried pourovers. And then we tried them again. (most of you didn't think much of those either). We got a terrific high-tech roaster. And the coffee that came out of it was served at the best restaurant in Pittsburgh.
Since Rich has to catch a 6am flight, time to wrap this up...
It's been really nice to hear from people we've inspired in some way (Wiggles almost brought us to tears). A number of people have come up to us this week to say we're the ones that put Pittsburgh coffee on the map. It's a nice sentiment for a legacy. Partly true even.
Thanks to Tom, Casey, Guy, Elizabetta, Mike and Dave for being early to the party and getting the word out for us. And to Roger, Greg, Sunil, Chris for their prolific tweets over the past couple of years. There are too many to mention on Facebook, although it seems over there our most prolific posters are customers who moved away. Or relatives. We miss you too :-(
Thanks to the folks who've been with us since the start. A special thanks to Angela (whom we apparently never could please, but she always comes back and leaves generous Christmas gifts), Ron and Pipi, all of our upstairs neighbors, and the late Giovanni whose spirit lives on in our kitchen and the late Jack, who, when he had the voice to tell us stories, told amazing ones. And we miss Fisherman Bill even though he's not actually dead. Dave, Bruce, Tom, Chris and Cheryl (and Porter), 61C John, Gary and Deb, Kim, Nail Shop Guy, Sybil, Jay, Larry... ah, this is long list. Heck, we'll even thank Bernardo Katz who used to hold his meetings here before he fled the country and was wanted by Interpol. So thank you to everyone who has amassed a fully stamped customer card. Or two. Or three or more. Thank you all very much.
Thanks to everyone who's had us cater an event. That was a nice side business. And we had fun doing those. (Except for trying to unload at LeMont). And thanks to everyone who's ever attended a free coffee class or paid training session here. Your desire to learn more about coffee is the best feedback we could ever ask for.
Special thanks to our straight espresso and traditional cappuccino customers. You're why we train hard to understand espresso. When there's not much else to hide the taste, the coffee needs to be exceptional. Special thanks also to everyone who's ordered a pourover. You get what we've been trying to do here and we appreciate your trusting us to brew a great cup.
Thanks to Intelligentsia for leading the way. Thanks to Stumptown for being way too generous. Thanks to the folks at Fresh Roast Systems for answering all our questions, even on weekends. Thanks to Daryn Berlin for the singlemost hysterical moment we've ever had here. Thanks to Walter who built the roaster platform, which is now the brunch station. Thanks to Al Liu/Atlas and Thom Owen/Shrub for amazing green coffee for us to roast and serve. Thanks to Scott Rao for writing two great books we use to train and for replacing our lost Barista's Handbook gratis (even though he hates Rich). Thanks to Nick Cho for staying out of jail so he could continue his solid work at raising the public's perception of the barista as a professional and promoting our community. Thanks to Jay Caragay for being Jay Caragay. Thanks to James Hoffmann for letting Rich win the first MidAtlantic sprodown. And thanks to Troy Reynard for hosting that event and for all his work to support our region's coffee professionals. And thanks to Mary Diamond for her hospitality at LaMarzocco and Piero for utterly confusing Melanie on the history of machines. Thanks to Anne and Neil for being neat houseguests and playing with the dog. And thanks to every barista out there who's ever given us a great drink. There are too many of you to mention, yet still too few in the world.
Local thanks to China Millman for all the great words about coffee and mentioning coffee in almost every restaurant review. Thanks to Matt and Luke & Alexis and Barb & Amalie and Melanie's BFF Amy Enrico for pushing the boundaries of coffee excellence in Pittsburgh. Thanks to Chef Sousa for believing and trusting in our coffee (and for that box of neato chemicals). Thanks to Bill Swoope Jr. for drinks at just about every coffee convention we've attended and for being a sounding point for us all along (and more importantly, for this). Thanks to everyone at [email protected] for welcoming us into the club and buying lots of our coffee.
First is the early "fun bunch" crew with Lois, Cara, Petra, Andi and Steve. That was the first crew who could actually make drinkable coffee and pour art.
Then there was the middle "Best Baristas in Pittsburgh" crew of Lois, Belle, Frank, Johnny C., Sonja and Lauren (with thanks also to Ruthie and Melinda who both just missed being in the "official" photo). They put us (and Pittsburgh) on the espresso/coffee map. That was an amazing time. If there's a version of "We Are Family" that pertains to baristas, they were it.
And now the current crew of Lois, Jess, Clara, Sam and Max who will remain with the shop as it transitions to new ownership. Because they earned it and we've learned that they can run the thing themselves.
We couldn't have done it without you. Our unending thanks for everything.