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Summer Stories: Serving and Smiling at the Village Square Cafe

I moved to Maryland at the very end of June, and like any poor college student, I was desperate for a job. I began my search on Craigslist and found a café in Roland Park called Village Square Café. Ecstatic about it being in a safe neighborhood with wealthy clientele, I applied. As I ventured into my first interview, I was shaking like it was my first day of kindergarten. Two days later, I got the call. The job was mine! I was to start the very next day.

I found out very quickly that Village Square Café is not your typical restaurant. Customers start their dining experience by ordering at the front counter and getting their drinks. The employees bring the customer’s food out anywhere from five to 15 minutes later. Every employee shares every responsibility. There isn’t a consistent server, counter person, or barista. We learn it all. I began with expediting food. Easy, right? Wrong! Balancing eight plates with just two arms is harder than half of the Olympic sports. From that, I learned the cash register- the easier of the two. Every order gave me more and more confidence with the entire system. Finally came the espresso machine- my favorite. I have been a barista in the past, so I knew all the tricks to making every espresso delicacy there was.

At the Village Square Cafe (Image via Jamie Lee)

One month later, I finally felt comfortable in my 30-hours-a-week home. My coworkers felt like people I truly considered friends. I could vent to them about my day (and listen about their day!), tell them my secrets, and joke around. What first seemed like a hard, difficult work place eased into a loving, secure place where I felt at home.

Today, I am still working at the café. The regulars have become people I know more extensively than my best friends, and my coworkers have become people I see more than my family. The best part of it all is the comprehensively positive attitude it’s given me about life as a whole. I see strangers and wonder what their story is, how they got here, and what drives them to get out of bed in the morning. When that sweet old lady comes in every Friday night, I’ve learned to stop wondering what her story is, and ask. As it turns out, that was all she was waiting for to come out of her shell. At the end of the day, I know I made at least one person’s day better. Whether it is with a not-so-funny joke, energy filled latte, or just a casual conversation. Sometimes, that’s all anyone is looking for when they walk through the door, and I’m honored to be the person to do that.

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