Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Time for a new coffee shop?

I've never been a huge fan of Starbucks, but in downtown KCMO, they get the job done better or at least with more consistent results than anywhere else I've found that opens before 7:00 AM... This is usually fine and well with me, but occasionally something goes wrong and they do NOT open before 7:00 AM. This time, the manager was running late.

No, I'm not going to get bent out of shape because they didn't open on time. Since they didn't open on time, one of the "security guards" was there, waiting with the employees for the manager to show up so that she could be chief of the queue to quaff her caffeinated concoction. Upon my arrival, the security guard came out, asking in a pleasant tone if I was there for Starbucks. I affirmed her suspicions, then asked if the manager was running late. That's when things got ugly. The imp switched gears in a vain attempt to become the biggest five-foot-one authoritarian the world has known, and told me I can't park my bike against the building. This is a practice I've engaged in for two years now, and I let her know it. Apparently, no security guard, in the dozens of times monthly I see them shooing off panhandlers and loiterers, has ever witnessed as many as four bikes all parked there at the same time, because according to her "none of us have seen your bike here before, it's against corporate policy."

Now, I do realize that she has been granted authority to act in the best interest of her company. I do realize that sometime, somewhere, discussion about bicycle parking may have come up and someone probably said that they don't want bicycles parked on their property. The wonderful thing about security guards, however, is that you can often hoodwink them or at least get them to agree to your antics temporarily simply by telling them what you are going to do, regardless if it goes against what they just told you that you're not supposed to do.

Me: "I'm going to park my bike here today. I will not move it to a location I cannot see."

Guard: "Do you have a lock?"

Details surrounding my ability to lock my bike are not even remotely pertinent to this situation. Being locked to a tree around the corner does not make my bicycle secure or safe from theft. Sitting 3 feet from my bike on the other side of some glass and being able to jump up and get outside within 5 seconds DOES make my bicycle pretty secure. I responded "Pending my discussion with the building manager today, I will determine if I can or cannot park here in the future, and we won't need to have this discussion again."

She agreed. Looks like I have some phone calls to make after 8:00 this morning. I'm really looking forward to seeing the written corporate policy outlining bicycle parking.

All of this really got me thinking about the other coffee shops in the downtown loop, though, and maybe a few that are "on my way" even if they are out of the loop. "The loop" I'm speaking of, is the part of Kansas City that resides within the boundaries of I-35, I-70, US-71 and I-670. In reality, I'd like something that's more within the boundaries of 7th and Truman, Broadway and Grand. Here's my list of "tried and hated" coffee shops around downtown based on the metric of being able to provide a reliably tasty Mocha before 7:00AM. Anyone in KC have some suggestions that I'm missing?

  • Coffee Girls.
  • Scooter's.
  • Nine Muses in the KC Library.
  • Country Club Cafe in Country Club Bank.
  • YJ's Snack Bar.
  • McDonald's in City Center Square.
  • PerkUP!
  • Black Coffee.
Black Coffee is the closest one to work, and SOMETIMES has mind-blowing drinks. Other times, it's bland or just plain bad. Regardless, they don't open early enough for my schedule. I never did get my fix this morning. At 7:00, the manager called one of the employees to inform him that he'd be there in about half an hour. I may swing by Black Coffee soon.

I haven't mentioned it lately, but I really, really miss Sandy, the lead barista at Johnson County Community College. I got my morning dose from her (or her well-trained staff) pretty much every single day before I left the college for greener pastures.

Oh, and my ride this morning? It was nice and quick. I'm afraid we might have some rain for the ride home, though. There's also some other stuff potentially going on this evening that could be considered exciting. Stay tuned.

Random Tunage:
Say Anything - Baby Girl, I'm a Blur
Plumb - Cut (Bronleewe & Bose Radio Edit)


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I'm kind of in the same boat as you as far as a good mocha downtown goes. I love the folks at Scooter's, and end up there because it's most convenient (the one at 10th and Walnut), but unless I get really particular about my drink order ("medium mocha, double shot, light on the mocha"), the default "mocha" is more like slightly coffee-flavored really chocolatey milk. So I've just given up and started drinking straight coffee instead. Better for the budget, too. But not especially helpful if you want a mocha. :-/ Have you tried Espresso Ala Cart in the Commerce Building? I've never tried it, was just the only thing not on your list that I could think of. Unfortunately, since it's a cart, there's no place to sit. And don't waste your time with Mildred's. Powdered hot chocolate mix plus milk plus espresso does not a mocha make. ("Mmm, gritty!")

Noah said...

I used to do scooters and get their Dark Roast of the day. Kenya AA is tasty stuff, but when I ride the whole trip in, I need some carbs and I think you will agree with me that Scooters' selection of (barely) edible goods is left wanting. Mocha is usually cheaper than a black coffee and a pastry. Executed properly, it's also a tasty morning treat. Unfortunately, no shop downtown is capable of making one really well every time.

Anonymous said...

You might want to leave a comment at the Starbucks comment page (

I would think they would like to know that their manager was running late, the security guard was obnoxious, and they are missing morning customers.

Noah said...

Well, the Starbucks is in a mall type location. It just so happens to have windows facing out toward the road. The guard was definitely not any fault of *$ own, but if I can't keep my bike in eyeshot, I refuse to patronize that *$.

Anonymous said...

If you can manage to hate every one of the eight or so coffee shops, maybe the problem is with the coffee drink, not the coffee?? :)

Once LatteLand opens their new P&L location you'll have a brand new place to hate!

Anonymous said...

With Starbucks being from Seattle where there is a huge bicycle contingent, along with being in the process cutting back and closing stores, I would definitely contact them, pass along your concerns, and a link to your blog posting.

Anonymous said...

Hey Noah, I keep forgetting to ask...did the bike thief make off with your panniers also?

Noah said...

Eric, the thing is I don't hate the Mochas that *$ puts out. They're predictably okay. The best I've found in the downtown loop. And I'd almost agree with you except Broadway Cafe, Roasterie Cafe, JavaJazz at JCCC and Daily Dose happen to make a great Mocha. There's a fair share of crappy espresso drinks out in my neck of the woods, too... Black Dog, PTs and a host of Scooter's locations among them.

Anonymous said...

I like the setting of starbucks but have never cared for their coffee. It's always too strong. I think all the starbucks around here open at 5:00 am.

Was this a starbucks security guard or was it a mall rent-a-cop?

It also sounds like there may be a couple of opportunities here:

1. Option 1. Pitch to Starbucks about bicycle commuters, their love of coffee, and the how they could use that as a new marketing campaign as more and more people start riding due to escalating fuel costs. That, coupled with the fact that Starbucks is getting ready to close hundreds of stores nationwide means that they need to be looking for business any way they can get it. Explain, of course, how you are available for consulting and testing of this plan.
2. Option 2. Sounds like a perfect opportunity to open Noah's Coffee Bistro that caters to bicycle commuters. You could partner with Trek and have one of their bike vending machines placed outside along with plenty of bike parking, bicyclist friendly snacks, etc., etc., etc.

Sorry, I got a little carried away.

Noah said...

Bryan: Essentially, this is a high-rise building and the lower 2 levels are much like a miniature shopping mall and food court. This was the high-rise building's security, so more of a rent-a cop.

1) There are bike racks NEAR the building, but all are out of sight and i'm not comfy using them. Starbucks can't do anything about it, as they don't own the property.

2) There is no money to be made in yet-another-independent-coffee-shop in Kansas City and honestly, I know I couldn't do any better than even the worst of the shops I've complained about from the perspective of nailing coffee perfection.

Anonymous said...

I was just tossing out some random ideas I had. They are rarely any good. The whole situation sucks for you and I feel for 'ya.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately - law ain't on your side on this one. It is indeed illegal to park / lock a bicycle on a sidewalk. Technically you are supposed to park / lock your bike in designated racks if available. When I got 2 speeding tickets on my bike (yes bicycle) and then another ticket for blowing thru a stop sign on my bike (yes bicycle) I did lots of reading in preparing my defense. At the courthouse, there were no bike racks available so I was forced to bring my bike in the courthouse in Manhattan KS as there were no suitable places to lock up. I was asked to leave in a rather stern tone by the bailiff. Made for fun story though.

Oh, and the Roasterie makes the finest coffee in town - well worth the effort to swing by there for your hookup.

The Unabashed Blogger said...

Honestly your attitude and lack of respect for a job that "gets no respect" is appalling. No one, I repeat, NO ONE likes Security unless they are doing exactly what the person in question wants them to do (which is different in each situation). Most people expect Security "guards" to eat donuts, have their uniforms looking slobby, and spit whilst yelling as they enjoy their ego trip trying to get grown adults to comply with a policy that may difficult to enforce as it is. No one likes to be told what to do, least of all adults. So maybe think about this as you simmer over being slighted by a 5' "imp": Maybe she believes in doing a good job. Maybe she is constantly being hassled by people who work in high rise buildings who could care less if they are breaking policy, or even breaking the law, if it inconveniences them. Maybe she is out of patience for those who think they are above these policies or laws and are always resisting and whining to try and get what they want. Maybe you should let the "imp" do her job and you do yours by asking the company for their policy and to possibly make exceptions. Security officers are not rent-a-cops. You can actually rent cops. That is what they are for.

Do I have a chip on my shoulder? Yeah I do. I'm terribly disappointed in the general population's attitude towards Security Professionals. Not everyone who works in Security wants to be a cop (surprise!). And many of them are merely trying to earn a living. It's actually pretty good money. I've been a Security Officer for over 6 years and my company's starting pay is better than almost every single county police job in the area. I pay my bills and enjoy my work...except with people who react the way you did. So chill and park your bike out of sight for 5 minutes. Maybe you could even ask her to keep an eye in that area while you are inside. You never know what may happen.

Oh yeah, reference hoodwinking: please don't mistake kindness for weakness.

Of course, maybe she just doesn't like your blog.

Noah said...

Unabashed: I actually work in Security as well. It's info-sec, but it's the same damned thankless job that this lady does, just applied to network policies. My wife also has a strong background in physical security/police type stuff. It's not like I don't feel for this lady.

What I refuse to tolerate is the "You CAN'T _____" right out of the gate. Come on. Have a little bit of freaking tact. Get off your power trip and just ask me nicely. It goes a long way. If you come out and get up in my face, though, I am on the defense. And I hate to break it to ya, but I am DAMN good at defense if you back me into a corner. Treat me like I'm a trouble-making asshole, and I can become one pretty quickly.

I know you can rent cops. Real, on-duty ones with loaded guns and the full force of the law. Our secure data center actually does this. Notice I didn't directly call her a rent-a-cop, although I likened her to one in response to a quandary.

There was no kindness in her agreeing to let me park there TODAY. I wouldn't call it weakness, either, although if she would be well within her rights to tell me to leave the premises if I didn't comply (which I'd have done if asked, otherwise that would be breaking the law), and she did no such thing.

I actually have no intention of testing the boundaries again there until I can get in touch with the building's manager. I was given permission to park there today pending discussion with the manager. That discussion didn't happen.

Be appalled all you want. I'm not a complete asshole. I'm pretty easy to get along with if you don't go for my jugular.

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