Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Alaskans and Their Coffee Stands

Alaskans and Their Coffee StandsBy contributing writer Kim Christopher of The Mommy Machine

***

My brother-in-law was visiting from Ohio. As we sat at the kitchen table enjoying breakfast he began describing his favorite coffee to me, detailing his morning routine of running into his coffee shop and ordering his delicious cup o’ joe to go. I stopped him right there.

“What are you talking about?” I asked with skepticism. “You park? And get out of your car? For COFFEE?”

He stared at me with a puzzled brow. I frowned at him in disbelief. This conversation was going nowhere fast.

You see, in Alaska, we have coffee stands. You drive up to the sliding window, order your poison, toss your money to the barista, and go about your merry way. Our coffee stands are located, well, everywhere. Every street corner. Every back alley. Every empty lot. Some coffee stands share a parking lot with a gas station or a bank. Others sit by themselves on lonely stretches of road, where truckers and campers depend on them to provide a hot mug of pick-me-up in the middle of a long drive. The point is, I haven’t had to step out of my vehicle for a warm beverage since 1997, but when I explained all this to my Buckeye brother-in-law, he refused to acknowledge the vast superiority of our drive-up stands to his inconvenient park-and-walk shop.

It’s not like these coffee stands are fly-by-night operations, I clarified. They’re not pouring hot water into a Dixie cup of instant crystals. We’re talking real businesses that take pride in their product, with each stand specializing in a particular brand of bean. Some serve a local roast; some sell only organic; others import from Hawaii, for crying out loud. They call themselves by cute names that play off the theme of the coffee, like Holy Grounds or Jumpin’ Bean. Some use alliteration, like Motor Mocha, or hint at the exotic, like Terra Bella or Caffe d’Arte. My brother-in-law was unimpressed. What was it going to take to get this guy to see the light?

Each stand has its own punch card, I continued. Buy 9 drinks and get the 10th free! That brought a glint of interest to his eye. I hurried on, appealing to his sense of tolerance and diversity. Neither my husband nor my kids drink coffee, but that doesn’t keep them away. Alaskan coffee stands sell hot chocolate and chai tea and fruit smoothies and steamers. They offer muffins and cookies and Rice Krispies treats. They’ve got newspapers and bumper stickers. And they’re quick! No fuss, no muss . . . and definitely no parking and having to walk inside some strip mall just to place your order.

I quit talking and waited for my brother-in-law to concede. “Eh,” he shrugged, “I still like my coffee shop. They make it just the way I like it.” Some people simply won’t listen to reason.

***

This week's post "How to Throw Things Away" is up at BlogHer. Right next to the enticingly sensational piece entitled "Burka Rage." Doesn't that just make you wonder?

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25 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Shannon said...

I can see the need to have drive up coffee stands in Alaska. There has to come a point where it is just too cold to park and walk. Brrr.

Chrissy Johnson said...

What I don't get though is the lack of drive up atm's - all the one's I've seen and used are walkups. We don't have to get out for coffee but we have to get out for cash. Weird!

cndymkr / jean said...

In the Outer Banks we discovered drive thru liquor stores! Can you imagine? You pull in, place your order, pay for it and you never have to get out or get wet. They even have a small selection of foods and non alcoholic beverages.

Shannon said...

We have coffee stands everywhere in Eastern Washington State, too- and I am also originally from Ohio and couldn't figure out what that was all about! I'm used to it now- some 5 years later. . . but I desperately miss Duncan Donuts Coffee Shops- they don't have one anywhere on this side of the state!

a Tonggu Momma said...

When my husband moved out to Washington, DC from Eastern Washington state, he about had a conniption fit at the lack of drive-thru coffee stands. It's a loss he feels even now, 15 years after he moved.

Suzi Dow said...

Sorry, I'm with your brother-in-law. Where do you go to learn the latest news if not the local coffee shop? (Ours even has an "old farts" table.) Imagine a politician "glad-handing" the voters at a drive up coffee stand!

Anonymous said...

Isn't McDonald's everywhere?

Heart2Heart said...

Michelle,

I love how cute and quaint these coffee stands look. Ours are Starbucks and of course, what I make at home.

Love your choices however!


Love and Hugs ~ Kat

CountessLaurie said...

Hi Kim,

WHAT? Get out of the car to get coffee? Insane. If I had to go through all that trouble, I would just make it at home :-)

Here is New England, coffee of choice is Dunkin Donuts and around me, they all have drive-thrus. No getting outta the car for coffee.

Anonymous said...

Well, Alaska is big, and the habits vary by region, and luckily for us here in the interior they are not the same here as in Los Anchorage :)

-a Fairbanksan

Elizabeth said...

I've only ever seen one of those here in Colorado. It's a little cabin on wheels. We've never stopped there but now I'm curious. My husband is a "go in and sit down" kind of guy. But I love the drive thrus.

Shauna said...

We had little coffee stands where we lived in Montana. Most of them were called Mud Huts. I don't drink coffee, but loved the convenience of driving up for my Chai and driving happily away. When I lived in Tulsa there were snow cone huts. We now live Branson MO. We have approximately 8 million tourists a year. You'd think that we would have huts of some kind. But there are city ordinances against drive up stands here in tourist land. Can you believe it? So much for convenience.

I envy you your coffee stands, and hope that you never get crazy bureaucrats that legislate away practicality in your neck of the woods.

Anonymous said...

I was in Cali once with family and realized there were no drive through coffee places. WTH? This Alaskan girl loves the stands. There's a stand here in Fairbanks where you can drive up for coffee or soft serve. It doesn't get any better than that!

Kristen said...

Around here (Kansas City), we have a good mix of both. There is one without a drive up that I do enjoy going to, but the ones with the drive up definitley get more of my business!

Michele said...

See, now, I would have driven around and around that coffee stand, scratchin' my head, lookin' for a place to park! Do the coffee stands have any seats inside?

It's a pretty neat idea. Our Dunkin' Donuts has a drive-thru as well as a counter, but generally only the mega-chain restaurants have drive-up windows around here.

Kayris said...

From a sales point of view, having to go INTO a place to buy coffee means more impulse purchases. Like the yummy looking donuts. Or bagels. Or a breakfast sandwich.

I don't drink coffee. But most of the time I see people coming out of those places, they're buying much more than just coffee.

And maybe it'a city thing, but the local coffee cafe is a place to bump into friends and exchange info while waiting in line. One of my best friends met her future husband in line at Starbucks.

Anonymous said...

Ha! This is a picture of my shop! Yes, Alaskans love their drive-thru coffee shops. I have owned it since 1997 and have tons of customers that have been coming since then. Kindred Spirits is actually the first stand-alone shop in Anchorage. It started in 1992. Shortly after there sprouted up many shops. I believe we have about 200 in our city of Anchorage now. Kindred Spirits continues to be one of, if not the, busiest shops in the city.

SoyMamiYMas said...

Love, love, LOVE it! In L.A. there are really not that many drive-ups, and no mom-n-pop's, only a few Starbucks [that I know of] . . . which is really odd, considering it's a city where people live in their cars!

I love old-fashioned coffee houses too, but sometimes . . . well, sometimes you just need your Joe, NOW, and make that a ROLLING stop. ;)

Peruby said...

I want one! WAH! McDonald's coffee is really bad now that they changed the flavor or something. Sounds like a great idea for an aspiring entrepreneur here in Ohio.

Miriam said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Miriam said...

Yet another Eastern Washington resident here (and former Alaskan): I didn't realize we were so unique...coffee stands are at nearly every corner here in Spokane...but our winters are usually pretty brutal, too (except for the most recent one); much more brutal than anything I ever experienced in SE Alaska! :-)

Plus, Washington State is home of Starbuck's, and I'm sure that has some sort of influence, too!

Lori said...

We've got stands around here, too. Which always makes me terrible for the poor people stuck in there during the 110+ heat waves in the summer.

Maybe they have a second job moonlighting at the Starbucks drive thru on those days...

Daisy said...

I like the drive up coffee stands in my small city, too. My favorite (called Jo to Go) just moved, and it's no longer on my way to work. That makes me pull into a nearby gas station for Dashboard Joe, and I whine more than it's worth.

Anette said...

Hello fellowgirl Alaskan! I lived in Alaska 1995 until 2002. I miss Alaska terribly, but I am very happy not to live in the subartic anymore. We lived in Peters Creek. Miss AK so much but love living in Maryland! It truly was an experience!! Love your blog and Thanks so much for the memories!!