Small Business, the Norm

Although I’ve lived in Edinburgh before, there were so many things that as a 20 something, I just didn’t consider. I just knew that I really liked it. I knew that it made an impression. I always just thought, well, it’s because it’s Scotland.

I’m coming into a greater realisation of just what is so remarkable about this metropolitan city, bustling with all sorts of people, that really sets it a part from so many places in the world.

Although Edinburgh is not without its chain shops and restaurants, if you want to grab a bite to eat, 9 out of 10 times your going to go to a small business. The city is brimming with them… I don’t think you could walk a block without coming across some sort of locally owned cafe or family owned takeaway.

The words ‘fresh’ and ‘local’ almost go hand in hand with these many cafes, and although I don’t want to create an overly idealistic picture, I’m not sure words can describe just how diverse and overwhelmingly wonderful your options for food really are in this city.

I’ll write more about specific locations as the days go on, but I’ve already accidentally deleted this post twice, so for today, I’ll limit my comments to Chris.

Although I’d love to take credit for this amazing selection, it was Casey’s choice to pop in Zebra Coffee for our morning fix.  Chris was sitting at a pipe table, reading, and I mistakenly assumed he was a university student. In my defense, he looked young enough!

In fact, Chris was the owner, and he was using his down time to teach himself a second language. Not that Chris has much downtime I’m assuming, as he’d absolutely transformed his tiny space into an unforgettable gem of a shop, marked by rustic and repurposed items like seed bags, pipe, as well as quant and eclectic chairs and wooden features. It was dark, but in the best way. It made you feel kind you’d stumbled upon the secret room under the stairs, filled with things you wanted to discover. 

The flat white and latte we ordered were so beautifully made, I hated to take the first sip, but once I did the creamy indulgence was gone in less than a few minutes. I couldn’t help but wonder about Chris-so unassuming, so young, and  so evidently bright. When I asked how long he’d been open, he smiled like a person who had clearly been on quite a journey, and responded after a brief hesitation,  “Two years.”

I knew why he smiled.  So many experiences, obstacles, and victories must have saturated that seemingly short time. And I smiled back- so proud that he’d stuck it out. With a coffee shop with considerably more space opened next door, I’m sure Chris thought his journey was over. But that’s the brilliance of a city like Edinburgh. Small Business is the Norm. Cafes and family owned business line the streets, and there’s somehow always room for one more.

But, it does take that special person like Chris who believes they can create something that will last, a space that will give people an experience they won’t forget. After all, you can never replace the heart and mission of the small business owner with a fabricated version of a locally owned eatery. In the end, the desire to love, create beauty, and invite community will always stand out.

More to come!





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