Tags: coffee | capitalism | literature

Peaceful Co-Existence

Image: Peaceful Co-Existence
(Tom Messner)

Monday, 12 Mar 2018 03:45 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Residents of upper Madison Avenue had assumed a new coffee shop war was about to break out.

Teavana, right next door to the long-standing Amity had failed to dent into the Amity café hegemony and closed. Amity, which endures Pain Quotidien across the street and Dean & De Luca a block away had stood its ground once again from the invasion of the nouveau caffeines.

But now it was facing the star of the new generation of coffee drinkers, Starbucks. And in the very same spot where its late sister, Teavana, had expired.

But war was not to be.

Each place found and/or kept its constituency.

Starbucks flaunted its tip box overflowing with dollar bills; The New Amity’s waiters and waitresses survived on gratuities slipped under plates or saucers, china defiant in the face of cardboard, cardboard only for takeout orders.

Starbucks’s customers for the most part stick to their iPhones and computers and resist dialogue. Amity for the most part seems to invite conversation across its tables, booths, and counters.

Starbucks does not deliver; The Amity is at your door almost at the moment you get off the phone calling for, as I am wont to do, oh “two coffees, large orange juice, two egg-bacon-cheese on roll.”

As residents realized the presence of both would be ongoing, some thought that the two cafes could become the Café Flore and Deux Magots of Carnegie Hill. Instead of Camus and Sartre reflecting, The Amity could bring to the table Marshall Karp and James Patterson whose philosophical "Kill Me If You Can" moved me at least to try a similar mug at the place they described:

At Forty-Second Street I switched to the Express, got off at Eighty-Sixth, and walked to The New Amity diner at Eighty-Fourth and Madison. I opened the door and immediately felt like a rock star.

“Mottchew,” Gus called from the back of the diner. “Mottchew Bannon. Good to see you, my friend.”

Steve the owner, two other waiters, and the short order cook behind the grill all gave me a big welcome.

As Greek diners go, this one is the absolute best. The food is good, the prices are affordable, and the service is fantastic. Gus was about sixty, with thinning silver hair, a ready smile and an endearing accent. He was from Greece, or as he called it, Grrrriss. I didn’t know much about him, but I got the feeling he had quite an interesting life in the old country.

He pointed to a booth, and before my butt hit the vinyl he delivered my usual mug of half regular, half decaf coffee and a small pitcher of skim milk.

Surely, though, all this peace and love between the two places has had a few red lines in the sand. A kind of Mutual Assured Destruction must exist behind the peaceful facade.

For if Starbucks starts serving Moussaka, Baked Meat Loaf, and Goulash, no doubt we would see a reprisal: the launching of Amity’s own version of Starbucks’s famed Iced Hazlenut Bianco Latte.

Tom Messner worked forever in advertising. In politics, he avoided the predictable negative bent and did positive ads for Reagan in ’84 and for Bush in ’88 along with Bush’s convention film. The agency he co-founded created NASDAQ’s first branding, Volvo’s comeback, and Fox News’s “We report. You Decide.” Then learning from the pols he partnered with (Roger Ailes in particular), they brought attack ads to such formerly benign areas such as telecom (MCI). At 73, he’s doing two things he never did before: Blogging here on wildly unconnected subjects coming on the heels of last year’s adventure: the writing of his first play, a musical “Dogs” destined now for either Broadway or The Pound. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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Residents of upper Madison Avenue had assumed a new coffee shop war was about to break out.
coffee, capitalism, literature
Monday, 12 Mar 2018 03:45 PM
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