Lattes, scones and what really matters

I know him only as Mohammad. Today I learned his last name when much to my surprise I read a brief editorial that featured him and his cafe. Most weekday mornings for nearly six years I stopped in at Mohammad’s corner juice bar for a latte and one of his irresistible scones or muffins. It would usually be a brief stop, because like Mohammad I had my own business and needed to get to my office just a few blocks away and get started on my day. But many times over the years I would linger to chat between the orders of his many other loyal customers. We talked business at first. Eventually we got to know about each other’s families. He met my mom before she became too physically unstable to visit. He still asks about her today. My wife drops by regularly, too. And now Mohammad has met my in-laws from out of town. Several years ago, I started seeing Mohammad’s young son at the cash register on Saturday mornings or weekdays when he didn’t have school. I can’t help but think of myself, years ago, when my dad would bring me to his store. I liked operating the cash machine, too.

Like my dad once did, Mohammad runs a family business. I don’t know that family businesses are endangered species, but for the last 30 years or more they have inexorably given way to corporate chains and franchises. And as they have, we citizens of communities keep losing faces and places that bind us together. Like me with the editorial writer at the Oregonian. I’ve never met him, but I know now we share something important in our lives. Taking direct aim at the mermaid joint directly across the Park Block, he writes:

Mohammad would never ask you if you stupidly forgot to order something from his pastry case. He figures if you want a scone, you’ll order one. But he has been known to slip one into a sack and just hand it to a good customer once in a while. That’s class. It shows why his tip jar is usually brimming, and why he’ll probably be able to take his kids back to Disneyland or somewhere else fun next summer, too.

Mohammad has also shared his story with me of taking his kids to Disneyland this summer. I was happy for him because I know he almost never takes a break from his business. I suspect you know people just like him near your workplace or home. If not, look a little harder. Your life will be richer for it.

October 2nd, 2007

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