Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

On the Green Path

I went out for a run today.  My first run, actually, since I tore my Achilles tendon late last June.  I had made a couple of long bike rides, and I have taken a few longer walks, but this was the first run.  Down to Lake Harriet and back. One hour.  A slow jog and a lot of walking in between.  To anyone passing me, I’m guessing they thought, hmm, older guy straining himself, not in too good of shape maybe.  But for me, this run was pure joy. What an accomplishment and a recognition of ten months of physical therapy and exercising and a desire to be on a soccer field once more.  I felt great. 

And then I got home and flopped down on the grass and watched the clouds passing by while I stretched my tired muscles.  And yes, I started playing the shapes in the clouds game.  It struck me that it is foolish to look for a specific shape in the clouds; instead, we choose to try to pick out something from the shapes shifting by. If you are always looking for a ship, you might never see one, nor would you see the dancing horse, dancing upon a larger horse as it tumbles across the sky in front of your eyes.


And this led me to think about a challenge I’ve been facing at the café.  What do customers see when they walk into the shop?  What do they pick out from the collection of shapes and colors and words and items arranged in front of them?  How do they perceive the space that we’ve designed and set up to serve them? It seems that it is far too difficult to see what we really would like them to see.  Like the ship in the clouds, many are looking for something very specific that isn’t always there, and in doing so, miss easy signs that could point them to what they want to find.  I guess the shapes in the clouds are too difficult to sort out.


I have, indeed tried a few different layouts and sign arrangements and yet, I may not be seeing what they see when they come in because I am now so familiar with this new space.  After two and a half years, I’ve started seeing those ship-clouds even when they aren’t there, because I just feel like they should be there.


For those who do come in with that “let’s see what we can see” attitude, many do find what they’re looking for, but unfortunately, there are also too many misleading signals that make that first visit a tough one.  Once “introduced” we tend to get very positive feedback about the space and especially its improvements from our cramped and less than hospitable amenities in our old space on Grand Ave.    Like those fleeting clouds, even when I think it looks like it should, something shifts and scene is just a bit off.


I also came back from my run to find that the cherry blossoms have begun to open and the tulips are blooming.  Not much to try to imagine there. You see what you see.  A tulip is a tulip.  I guess that’s something to be thankful for.  And as for these yellow tulips, they’re kind of hard to miss.


I tend to run solo. Mostly because I’m not that great of a runner and I really need to focus on my pace and breathing and muscles to get through a full run.  But all along my journey today, I watched people in twos and threes and fours as they were walking, running, biking. But while they were on their journey, they were talking to each other.  The little snips of their conversations led me to believe that these talks were covering politics, spirituality, relationships (new and old), business matters, and parent-child issues, and well just the day-to-day living of life. It reminded me how a good walk (or run) can lead to working out a lot of problems by journey’s end.  


In my business, it makes sense for me to find ways to do that same kind of networking – with my staff, my customers and with others in business and the community  - to help me work through the challenges I face and to help me find the shapes in the clouds.   Maybe I could take a few walks around the shop with you and we could pick out a few tulips and do a little cloud watching too.


Thank you for following me along this path.