We started in the 80's with a simple cross country ski afternoon and it developed into an annual sleepover event. There are 4 core guys and several others who have joined over the years. Bill, Don and I have been best buds for years, I met them both around freshman of college. Bill's brother John and another college friend Eric attended this year.
This year the weather conditions were perfect and we were ready to have some fun on the ice; it was hard and smooth. I had prepared for this by bringing a bowling ball and 3 pins. We started to bowl after the sun went down and just had a gas. The sound of the ball running on top of the ice was really cool, like a mixture of bowling alley and thunder. The lake had just enough texture to it to make the ball bounce ever so slightly. The visual result was cool too; all these little dots in succession. We played late into the night.
We started playing again in the am and really fine-tuned the alley, pin spacing and backstop. We had broke a piece off the side of the ball on the rocks, a good chunk but somehow it still rolled ok. After a couple hours we broke for lunch and football.
Don decided he would start to mine some ice. He got out the ax and started to chop out huge pieces of 5 inch think frozen water. He knew he would get Bill going. Billtook the cue and started to build a installation on the ice just off the cabin. He started by taking a few large ice chunks from Don and setting them on edge. He got more ambitious by hacking holes in the lake and setting the corners of large pieces in the holes. John joined in; pretty soon they were creating some cool stuff.
I watched with my functional hat on, I told them to make a big table out of the latest slab of ice they had just mined; it was huge.We needed every back to lift that hunk of ice. The structure boys had prepared the plinth and basically they just eyeballed it. When we set the top, it was perfectly level. I put my phone bubble level to it and it was uncanny how close they got; no adjustments. It was also strong and safe; it was going to make a great place to serve coffee.
I am a proud employee of the best coffee company in the world; The Starbucks Coffee Company. I love working for them and am proud to represent them. I brought 5 pounds of my favorite whole bean; Christmas Blend. In the back of my mind I had thought that maybe I would do a repeat of our pop-up coffee cafe.
Here is Don at the table:
Here is Don at the table:
Last summer, my buddies and I served coffee on a couple of pontoon boats in the middle of our lake. We spread the word and put up a few posters. We ended up getting a bunch of folks that came by kayak, canoe, ski boat and inner tube. We served over 125 cups and really had a lot of fun. It seems like it would be fairly simple; all you need ground coffee, a brewing method, water just off boiling and a cup to carry it away with. When you see the organized chaos at a busy Starbucks you must appreciate all the planning that goes into it. It is not as easy as it would seem.
The toughest thing about serving good coffee is keeping just-off boiling water. It takes many gallons to do the job, that and correctly ground beans, a brewing method, a way to serve it and a cup to take it away in. When you are out on the water or ice where an electrical connection cannot be made, you have to rely on other methods to boil water. We use an industrial propane heater but if you are using a lot of water, you have problems.
We serve it pour-over style so all you need is a filter, a filter holder, and some structure to hold the whole operation. I was lucky to get cups (from an expired promotion) and a mass of filters and related equipment at work for a song (the cup fund). I bought the coffee (at my discount) and cream/sugar; it was cheap fun.
Our store was complete; fireplace, art installation, work/serving table, stools, signage, and even a bowling alley. Now we needed the customers. I had put up posters the day before, at 10 the first folks started coming for coffee.
There is nothing like coffee to bring people together (that and booze). But I am here to tell you nothing gets people moving like the promise of a Starbucks experience. Ok, I am being a little melodramatic but look at this next picture, they were lining up to get their pictures taken in front of the sign!
There is something about the Starbucks Brand that is compelling to even the younger set. These girls were really cute, they all lined up for their cup but they wanted just a half glass of hot water (my most precious resource) as they were going to mix that with some ice chipped from the lake (yuck!). I made sure they got the deluxe Starbucks experience; cup with sleeve, top and a stick to stir, all served with a smile.
Our customers came to us by all means of transportation; they skated in, they came by ATV, some came by bike (with studded tires). We all walked on water and we all enjoyed a warm cup. Those who chose could cuddle up to the fire, if you wanted you could bowl...we tried to make it comfortable place to hang.
The whole experience was memorable. My sister Betty and her hubby Bruce came all the way in from Spokane, she is such great sport, seeing her made my day. My buddy Tim and his wife dropped all plans and came up from BF Egypt to help serve coffee. He had the most fun of anybody. I met many new great neighbors and created an experience that people will talk about for years.
I had a great time and can't wait for the summer event. I still have a lot to learn about the operations and customer service that it takes to make everybody happy. It really is work, but the outcome is so satisfying.