Monday, April 11, 2016

Coffee For The Maladjusted

Yesterday a sign greeted me on the door of my usual bar stating that is closed for new ownership.  In desperation for my coffee Americano I headed to the bar I call “Old Farts”.   Frequented by the crotchety old men of the village, and a few socially maladjusted persons, I usually hesitate to go there because of its hole in the wall decor and the fact that they clearly use marginal food sanitation practices.  I also don’t want to admit that I am, one of them, a uomo vecchio, (old man) .   Upon arriving there,  feeling almost relieved , I found it also closed, for cleaning.

Two Young Ladies 
There are several other bars in the village and I quietly sat at another bar, one at the busy village crossroads,  a roundabout, separated in the middle by a statue of two young women.  (There is a second statue at another entrance to our village, one woman with a head in the long shape of an alien.  We joke that clearly the artist was at one time kidnapped by the same.)  I found that my coffee is served  in a smaller cup and with only warm water.  They also do not have wifi! 

A year ago my old bar had been owned by a young woman who worked hard to keep it going, her hours were long, 7 days a week.  She was there from 6:30 to 10:00 with shorter hour Sundays.  She knew the people who frequented the bar and patiently listened to their stories and tribulations of the day.  From this bar I watched the coming and goings for several years of the many people of my village.  Italians enjoy  a friendly place to go for a quick cappuccino and a sugary pastry.  Many would come back for lunch to have a sandwich or a micro waved pasta.  (Bars aren’t allowed to cook in Italy.)  She also provided what people needed to celebrate weddings, graduations, and birthdays.  She had built up a good business with a lot of work and care.

Having two squirrelly young boys, and a tired husband who worked nights, this took a toll on all of them and one day I sadly heard her tell me that she sold her bar and would leave the following week.  When she was gone I missed her and the bar felt sorely empty.

The bar was taken over by two fellows, one new owner, whose life’s goal was only to own a coffee bar looked, looked like a tall and skinny Nicholas Cage .   Both had the charisma of Karl Pilkington on a good day.  

They should have offered these
They clearly seemed not to be interested in the stories as related by the clients (This is an Italian way of life) nor did they ask questions to find out more (no social skills).  They served the coffees and went back to cleaning the surfaces, sweeping and shining the chrome of the coffee machine.
dogs are allowed in bars

I noticed business dropped off immediately.  Within one week at least half of the usual visitors were staying away.  School started the following week and the mothers who usually came in after dropping off their children were absent.  The school bus driver stopped coming.  The village police and the mayor stopped coming and the Carabinieri were absent.  The only village regulars remained to be the drug store owner, seeking to get away from his usual routine there and Mr. Opinion, an older bald headed fellow, who always had a loud opinion on just about everything.  It seemed that the only business that the bar had was the “drive by people” who stopped for a coffee because the parking was convenient and free.  

From the very beginning the new owner was having some difficulty with paying his bills.  Constantly talking on the cell phone and searching for a private place to talk, I would see him, shrugging his shoulders  and gesturing with his hands, as Italians do, in the air.   One day, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post, he and his female barista stood out in the street wishing and hoping for customers.  He started out with two employees, but after reality settled in one disappeared from the daily routine.   The owner began to hum to himself and scratch his nose while gazing out the front window.  The beer spigots became the shiniest in all Italy.

I believe his “over the edge day” occurred when the electricity was shut off for the whole village.  He didn’t know about it and as the customers came in he had to tell them that they could only order water.  Only two old ladies stayed.  It was Dead man walking, right here in Due Carrare. 
Saved By Dubai Souvenir Coffee

It is the way of business.  Clearly he did not have a plan.  He did not sit down and think about how he was going to keep his customers, and how he would be able to bring in more clientele.   My old bar owner told me that he claimed he knew how to run a bar and didn’t appreciate  suggestions.  He should have taken them. 

It will be more difficult for the next owner to make a go of it.  He or she will be starting from the beginning to bring people in.  I hope that they will be successful as this is the only bar in my village that provides wifi.  (Modern times? Not here!)  

I have walked by and they are making some construction improvements.  The bar was already quite new in furnishings and appearance, so I cannot imagine what they are doing.   Sunday they cut down a huge tree in front that offered shade for outdoor tables during the hot sunny summer.  People liked to sit in the shade when weather allowed it.  

This bar, where I sat with the statue of two slinky women does not provide wifi.  I will have to go to the Old Farts Bar, when it opens next month.  One that deserves complete destruction.   I dearly miss Starbucks today!
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That is life in my village.  There are few things to worry about besides the bar problem.  There is an election on Sunday to prevent drilling of oil off the coast of Italy (a gimmick is you vote YES in order to prevent drilling).  I see that the gelato shop has reopened for the summer.  


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