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Schwindamania is the portfolio and blog of Jackson, Mississippi graphic designer Darren Schwindaman. I'm currently completing design work for small business and non-profit clients. Contact me if you'd like to work together.

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Coffee Shops

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I’m at the Barking Dog Coffee Shop in Sonoma, California. My girlfriend Melia’s at a meeting with the superintendent of schools here about incorporating some of the ideas surrounding her project into the system. I’m going to give this shop a rating of 9 on a scale of 10. It’s awesome, fulfilling the following parameters:


    Sturdy wooden furniture. I like coffee shops with furniture that’s reminiscent of an old bank. Solid furniture helps me get a good footing while I’m doing work. The chairs need to be sturdy so I don’t rock around all over the place, and the smallest table needs to be wide enough for my computer, elbows, and coffee. Square tables, please. Also, an overall brown color aesthetic is awesome.

    Great music. I don’t need things to be totally silent, and appreciate enjoyable music. The Shins, Nick Drake, Imogen Heap, etc. playing here could come right from my iTunes. I approve.

    Awesome brewed coffee. Do you think I go to coffee shops just to hang around like some layabout? No, I want great coffee! I look for a choice of brewed coffees, with around 3 available brews, including one (preferably hazelnut) flavored option.

    Refill option. The Barking Dog has 50-cent refills after I buy a cup. Seems reasonable, no?

Overall, these conditions will ensure a quality coffee experience for me, and more enjoyable design work for clients. Everybody wins.

Posted on Sep 17, 2008 - 02:24 PM

COMMENTS

Excellent use of rating. Schwindamania should consider becoming a rating site exclusively… just sayin’. Food for thought. Now onto the topic of coffee shops:

Sturdy Furniture: Agreed. I would like a clean, comfy chair to sit cross-legged on… like something I would have in my home. Preferably the color of rich mahogany although the color is secondary to comfort. This will make or break my entire experience. Table size isn’t as important to me as accessibility of plugs as well as an outside seating option.

Music: I listen to my ipod to keep strangers away so I don’t really care.

Coffee: I need a barista that knows my name and can pull me a bad ass double shot. While I might say this is the sole reason for going to a coffee shop, I have endured terrible coffee out of convenience ever since I moved out of the Bay Area.

Refill: Absolutely don’t care. I’ll keep paying as long as it’s good. I would put clean bathrooms above the refill qualifications.

By sage on Sep 17, 2008 - 07:53 PM

Barking Dog is my favorite local coffee shop for all the reasons you listed, and more:

- Piping hot cheese and chile tamales with salsa.

- 12 flavors of Gelato Classico. Sweet Jesus, the combination of Caffe Moca and Vanilla Bean made me swoon.

- Coffee roasting in the background, the aroma wafting through the room.

- Comfy couches.

- Decoration that creates ambience: sunny yellow walls, a mural featuring a map of “Coffee Regions of the World.”

- Big windows that let in lots of natural light.

Oh, Barking Dog, the more I get to know you, the more I fall in love.

By Melia on Sep 18, 2008 - 03:39 PM

I agree on all counts, sir. Although I’d add the following:

1) Readily available outlets for my computer’s crappy ass battery to charge.

2) Bare minimum of people talking on their cell phones indoors.

3) Hipster-to-cute girl barista ratio no greater than 2:1.

By Chuck on Sep 18, 2008 - 04:01 PM

Oh, coffee shops. There are so many total disasters outside of New Orleans it’s not even funny. I haven’t found a coffee shop to cling to in Chicago yet...the closest I’ve come is a place called The Perfect Cup. Big plus: The signature drink is a mixture of espresso, black coffee, milk and chocolate. Like a mocha, but for those of us who need more than one shot to quiet the voices. Big minus: WiFi costs money there. I don’t have a laptop so that isn’t too big of a bummer for me most of the time, but it does mean that when I manage to pry away Josh’s compy for an afternoon, I can’t go there.

My thoughts on your categories:

Furniture: I agree that large, square tables are essential. How many times have I spilled my drink on the floor or my work because I couldn’t cram everything onto that 2-foot board masquerading as a work space? That’s why I’m usually that asshole taking up a table meant for four, alternating between glares and frantic scribbling to keep others from asking if they can sit with me. I usually don’t brush my hair if I’m going to a shop like that; that seems to guarantee me a great expanse of space.

Music: I don’t care what it is as long as they keep it the hell down. I prefer something without lyrics, though, because if someone’s singing I find myself trying to make out the words instead of getting my shit done. I usually remedy this situation by putting my unplugged headphones in to drown out everything. Oh and, for the love of God, no guy with a guitar. I hate that guy, and he’s everywhere with his whining and his strumming. Enough.

Coffee: It had better be freshly ground and brewed. I can tell when it’s not. As far as flavored coffees go, I’d rather go to a shop that has one good, plain (preferably medium roast) brew than one that has 45 carafes lines up, not one of them containing coffee-flavored coffee.

Refills: Two words: Bottomless cup. I can understand why places don’t do this so much. They lose money on people like me. I treat the bottomless cup with reckless abandon. At home, I limit myself to four cups at most per day because I am too lazy to make more. If I find a place with a bottomless cup, I will go there at least twice a week and fly home each time. I have no idea how much I drink because I lose count. I love America.

By Katie on Sep 18, 2008 - 06:56 PM

Oh, you know how I love me some coffee shops. I had a hell of a time finding one I liked in San Francisco as much as the ones in New Orleans. My perfect coffee shop, however was in San Diego.

1. Proximity- It was literally around the corner from my house, so when I was feeling restless working from home, I could just stroll over.

2. Awesome coffee- None of that weak, aftertastey crap you get some places. They had a good variety and lots of other options (like chai, hot chocolate and a variety of herbal teas) for when I was trying to cut back on coffee (HA).

3. Free WiFi- People who charge for WiFi should be shot (yeah, that’s right, Starbucks). Good strong signal, rarely had any problems with it.

4. Good food- I’d often give in and get a toasted bagel with cream cheese or a BLT for lunch. They had really amazing wraps and salads, too.

5. Overall excellent environment- The guy who ran the place had excellent taste in music, so I got to listen to Citizen Cope, Feist and Death Cab for Cutie while working. It also had lots of light, funky decor AND an ocean view. God, I miss that place.

By Gill on Sep 19, 2008 - 11:11 AM

There’s a lot for me to think about here!

@Sage: I will do my best to accommodate those who are only able to understand ratings on a scale of 1-10. Barista familiarity and personality is definitely key, although bathrooms do admittedly factor pretty low on my scale. (However, never never use the bathroom at Pizza Shack:it’s disgusting!)

@Melia: Seconded on Barking Dog! We had some tamales yesterday that were off the chain, and came home smelling like the coffee they were roasting in-house all day. Awesome.

@Chuck: Good call on the outlets, I definitely instantly start scanning the room for outlets as soon as I walk in, like I’m planning a heist or something. Inside cell phone talkers are generally obnoxious and this behavior should be avoided at all costs.

@Katie: My high school religion teacher used to play a tape of Gregorian monks doing chants by the sea, would you like to listen to that? Also, I 100% agree that America’s skewed perspective on what constitutes a normal portion size is quite amazing.

@Gill: The ocean view is hard to beat, and I’m going to disqualify it as a category because I don’t live in a fantasyland! I’m with you on the Wi-Fi executions, though. If several of us have guns, and only one is loaded, we won’t have to live with the responsibility of having killed the coffee shop.

By Darren on Sep 19, 2008 - 11:27 AM

oh man. I didn’t even think about the wifi. I wouldn’t even go to a coffee shop that didn’t have the internets. So they should be renamed internet-cafes-that-happen-to-sell-coffee. And I will never ever pay for the internets. That’s as silly as paying for water.

Until moving to Jackson, I would have said that any shop that roasted their own beans were pretty legit. But Cups roasts some nasty stuff. So nasty in fact, they shouldn’t claim it was theirs. Their minty-hazelnut-bluberry blend should get someone fired. But then again, I do not understand the audacity of flavored coffee…

And I will have to agree with Gill, that coffee shops by the beach automatically get 3 bonus points. At least.

Fondren Cups (Jackson, MS): 5
Pacific Bay (Walnut Creek, CA): 9
Mojo (Magazine St., New Orleans): 8

By sage on Sep 19, 2008 - 02:26 PM

This is quite the thread you’ve started, so I have to get in on this.

Melia touched on it, but I will say decor is important and I appreciate a well decorated establishment. It could be giant old black and white photos of cityscapes, framed burlap sacks the coffee comes in, paintings from the local art scene or, lets face it, anything relating to typography. Whatever. Overall color scheme is a major plus too. It get the creative juices flowing being surrounded by good design.

Gill- I agree with that place that was around the corner from OUR place in San Diego, though, because of the beach-goes, coins issued from the cashier were required to get into the bathroom. That could have been lame, but it wasn’t.

Darren- I am carrying a 9mm pistol, you find a few more people and we’ve got ourselves a WiFi-ring squad.

By Brian on Sep 20, 2008 - 05:25 AM

Great rating! Even I love coffee.
Here are some of my comments over your article

Sturdy wooden furniture:Chairs not only for you.If its available for people who are coming to your shop it would be better.

Music:I always prefer light music.Mind will be relax if hearing light music.I am telling about my opinion.

Awesome Coffee:What about green coffee.I heard that lot of benefits are there in green coffee.Is it true?If so...you can provide that also…

Anyways interesting post man.Keep it up…

By Coffee on Feb 13, 2009 - 01:04 AM

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