Sunday, 1 August 2010
Jones Cafe ( long story)
I've started a story, it may just be what I've written below, it may grow. Let me know what you think as I value your opinion.
Alice was worried about money, she knew she wasn't alone in this. But right now she could only focus on her own cares and worries.
The cafe had been open for 18 months now. She'd taken the business over from an old lady who called it Joan's cafe. So as to not upset the regulars she'd just changed the name to Jones. Which coincidentally was her surname anyway, so that was easy.
She had managed to retain the regulars, the farmers who came down from the hills on market day, who stopped by for a teacake or so.The old ladies who wanted their daily gossip over a pot of tea. The mums, who having got the children off to school stopped by for a well needed latte. There was even a group of new mums, with their adorable babies who liked to sit on the corner sofa and compare notes on whether they were doing it right. There were the teenagers from the local college who descended in hoards and scrabbled about seeing if they had enough money for a panini with their cokes.
All in all the trade had remained, despite the changes she'd made in the decor. Gone where the formica topped tables and the rather sad menu. Now each table was covered with a brightly coloured table cloth and contrasting salt and pepper pots. She liked the purple and pink table, as did the older ladies, they got a bit sniffy if it was occupied when they appeared for their morning beverage. The uncomfortable plastic chairs had also gone, replaced with comfy sofas and old fashioned Windsor chairs.
The menu had taken a while to change, and she still retained the selection of sandwiches beloved by the older crowd. But now there was also a selection of wraps and paninis, alongside toast, crumpets and muffins.
Where the menu had changed considerably was her introduction of homemade soup, which changed daily. This had proved a roaring success, and over time the amounts she prepared each day increased as she really hated running out whilst customers wanted to try each one she produced. She sold them the American way, as in either a cup or a bowl, which enabled her less adventurous customers to try first, without too much waste.
However this wasn't enough and her debts were starting to pile up. She sat in the alcove looking through her figures again and again seeing if they read any different if she kept checking, they didn't. However summer was nearly here and she'd invested in an awning and some outdoor furniture including two wonderful old fashioned rocking chairs that she so loved from her trips to America. So maybe with the increased seasonal trade, takings would be up sufficiently to break even or even better, slight profit.
She knew that half the problem lay with her, she was too generous with her helpings, she couldn't bare to think people were not getting enough food and leaving her cafe dissatisfied or hungry. But everyone told her that this had to change it was eating away at her finances, never mind the customers appetites.
The bell tinkled and in came her very favourite customers. She knew she shouldn't have favourites, but Joe and Elsie were just adorable. They turned up twice a week to every market day and sometimes on Friday. They had been married for 57 years and were still devoted to each other. They'd met at school at 15 when Elsie had been evacuated to the area and they'd been together ever since. Marrying on Elsie's twenty first birthday, Joe was five months older.
They liked to sit in the little table in the window, especially on cold days. It was a place to watch the world go by and linger as long as possible over their order until they had to go home to their draughty old house.
They loved what Alice had done to the place, it was so welcoming and cheerful. The table they liked had a blue table cloth with red china, which always made them smile.
Alice watched them out of the corner of her eye. She knew what they would be doing. Elsie would open her bag and get out her purse and between them they would count out their pennies, seeing if they could afford a piece of cake after their soup. They couldn't always do it. It was only recently that Alice realised this is what they were doing. Prior to that she just thought they weren't hungry. And now she realised they were, and had come up with a plan to help them without hopefully them feeling embarrassed about their financial situation.
Going over to say hello, unusually she pulled a chair up beside them. They looked at her wondering whether there was a problem. They knew that they always stayed too long and maybe Alice had decided enough was enough. They couldn't blame her they knew she had a business to run and that she was worried about finances. Just as she watched them they watched her and saw the increased worry frowns on her face. Not that Alice had any idea that she was observed, for which they were glad.
Still Elsie was so preoccupied she missed what Alice had started saying to them, until Joe nudged her. She smiled up at him, sorry love, her expression said and she started to pay attention to what Alice was saying.
Alice wanted to start a new range of cakes, not just the tired old but popular Victoria sponge, she wanted to experiment. And she thought that Joe and Elsie could be the perfect pair to do her food testing. Would they consider when they came in having a slice of whatever cake she'd made that day and filling in the form with their opinions of the cake before she started making larger quantities to sell. They would really be helping her out, as it was difficult to get an unbiased opinion form her family. Obviously as they were her tasting panel then there would be no charge for the cake and in fact as she couldn't afford to pay them would they consider having their soup first as payment.
Alice presented this in such a way that Joe and Elsie found themselves in the position of feeling really useful and not as they often thought a bit if a nuisance. This was a perfect way for them to be able to come to the cafe more often. As Alice was saying she would be making cakes on non market days when she wasn't so busy. And that she would really value their opinions. They found themselves nodding in agreement, pleased to be able to help. Completely unaware that Alice knew how tight money was for them and knew that they didn't eat properly the rest of the week. And this way not only could she genuinely get some feedback on her potential range of new cakes, but more importantly help this lovely couple, who constantly reminded her of what she'd lost when her beloved Gran died a couple of years back. Gran who was the person responsible to giving her this chance to start up this business after her horrid and acrimonious divorce a few years back when all she'd wanted was to lick her wounds and wait to die..........