Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Tim Horton Coffee - Steubenville report #1

One of the pleasures of life is coffee. When one is denied good coffee, life just loses some of its luster. When personality is missing behind the coffee counter, well, things just go into a decline. And so it was when we went in search of COFFEE this past Sunday.

Steubenville has a dirth of coffee providers and as far as we could determine, not a Starbucks in sight. Heavenly Grounds, located right next to Franciscan University, feeds the Starbucks coffee cravings but by 1:00 p.m. Sunday, they were closed. Next stop? Tim Horton's. Good California girl that I am, I had never heard of this Canadian brew. It actually wasn't bad but the experience in the coffee house was a bit surreal. I hope I don't sound snobby or superior in the next part but I just had to write about this because it struck me as all so outside the norm - MY norm anyway.

When I go into a coffee house I have a certain set of expectations - there will be lattes, there will be coffee choices, mugs will be for sale, there may be a wireless connection, and most importantly, the help speaks the same English that I do. So in I go. The young people behind the counter are ready to serve and I am sooooo ready for good coffee (not to mention suffering from severe computer denial withdrawal). First question - "Do you have a wireless connection here?" First answer: A very blank stare. My question was followed up with "you know, computers? online connection? etc". Second answer: Blank stare evolves into deer caught in the headlights of a car stare. I was left with the distinct impression that I had actually scared this poor girl with the question. Oh, well. On to coffee.

So next question - "What kind of coffee do you have"? OK, granted - this could be a really odd sort of question but remember I'm operating out of a California mentality and in CA the choices are endless (not necessarily a good thing). Next answer: "What do you mean"? My follow-up - "house blend, something bolder", etc. Final answer - "We have regular and decaf". Okay, I can live with that. Regular it is.

The coffee is presented in a really cool Tim Horton mug. I fall in love with the mug and want to add it to my collection. Having not learned my lesson yet, I state, "Wow, this is a great mug. Do you sell them?" I swear, the young man (the girl has abandoned me by this time) looked at me like I had grown a second head. Final answer - "No". So, while Quanah, Erin, Don, and Rosemary order their drinks, I slink away to a table mourning the loss of this mug. Then Don, God love him, suggested I take the picture. YES!

As I'm quietly sipping my not so bad coffee, I'm wondering if any of the other's noticed the weirdness of my exchanges above. It may not seem weird as you read this, but you really had to be there. Just as I'm dismissing the whole thing, figuring it would be small-minded to mention it, Quanah and group are settling in and I overhear him telling Erin that the blank, huh? sort of response I got was a perfect example of the culture clash of midwest versus west coast expectations. I immediately jumped in, totally relieved that the whole thing wasn't a figment of my imagination.

As it turned out, everyone agreed that Tim Horton Coffee House was missing a great money-making opportunity by not selling mugs AND not having WiFi in there. Of course the whole point of this isn't about money-making smarts. It was more my surprise at the total lack of imagination that seemed to be at work. Naturally, it's not the counter people who make decisions on how things are handled but the carry through of answering simple questions seemed to somehow unsettle them - like the mere idea of selling the logo mugs or having WiFi was an idea just totally outside the box.


Ally Bean said...

Well, you've got me laughing. I grew up in a small town in Ohio just like Stuebenville. And I've been in a Tim Horton's or two in my days.

I imagine that you did scare the girl behind the counter with your questions. It's easy to do in a small town environment.

You're right those mugs would be a good sales gimmick for Tim Horton's. I can't imagine why they've never done that.

paris parfait said...

Annie, I'm a tea drinker, but I know what you mean! I've been to a few places like that, where every (what I would consider normal) question is met with bewildered silence. Thanks for sharing this lovely, funny story!

organicpixel said...

Now Anne you KNOW I got a kick out of this entry and I'm sure you can figure out why *grin*. We are amazingly cultured here along the Pacific coast, in so many respects, especially compared to much of the US. I've often heard my Canadian pals mention Tim Horton's but have never had a firsthand experience. I've actually stopped drinking coffee on a regular basis and am developing a growing passion for loose brew Green Tea. I'll bring some over to you next time I'm over your way! Oh, and thanks for the chuckle and sharing the mug photo. :-)

Anonymous said...

This is your sister responding.

I'm laughing so hard I might have to leave the library!! :-0

Even here in my lil ol' neck of the woods, we understand the meaning of Starbucks ... ah, I mean coffee. [rofl]


Autrice DelDrago said...

I don't think anyone helped you out with this one... Tim Hortons is like a Duncan Donuts or Krispy Kreme, only with a lunch menu. They are not, technically, a coffee shop (like Starbucks.) They are a glorified lunch counter. lol We refer to them as "Tim Hortons, eh?"... it is Canadian based, as far as we can tell. No back bacon, though.

If you just want coffee... good coffee, and maybe a huge breakfast for under $3, there is Cheryls in Wintersville. It's a diner, but damn their coffee is good (nothing but regular and decaf coffee and tea there.)

There are little pockets of culture around the Steubenville area (ssshhhh... we don't let our secrets out easy), and you could hop up to Robinson Center and be delighted by all the cafes, etc. There is even an espresso bar around here, about 20 minutes away from Steubenville proper, which does serve authentic Italian beverages and is close enough to a tower that you can surf the web on your wireless laptop.

Next time you come through, email me and I'll give you my secret map to the best coffee establishments between here and Pittsburgh.

Oh, and please tell me you made it up to the Strip in Pittsburgh for all the wonderful food markets! The trip is well worth it, and the airport security folks are fairly used to inspecting suitcases stuffed with salami, pastrami, cheese, and bags of whole coffee beans!

Fida said...

You cracked me up with this one. I think they read your blog, because meanwhile you can buy Timi's Coffee mugs...they are just not as nice anymore (at least I think so. There's still no wireless though...and no latte either.