Open your own Smug coffee shop: Silver Lake model

Smug Scout feels sorry for you if you do not live near a Smug epicenter that has a Smug coffee shop. Perhaps you live in a flyover state. Perhaps you live somewhere that only has soulless and charmless chains like Starbucks. Perhaps you do not care about overpriced coffee, but you are interested in a profitable business model. Whatever the case, Smug Scout will help you open your own Smug coffee shop.  Smug Scout does have one warning before she starts to share her vast expertise: she is not a businesswoman and really has no idea how anyone would actually open a Smug coffee shop or even how profitable it is. She does not know, for example, if residents of flyover states would like to pay extortionate prices for superior single-source coffee. Smug Scout does know that there are people out there who pay under $5 for a single cup of coffee, but she does not know exactly where, how, or why. Still, she is a Smug Scout, not a bargain or budget or cut-rate scout.  And when she recently visited Intelligentsia in Silver Lake, she learned some lessons she will happily pass along to you.

Lesson 1: You do not need to spend much money on interior design as long as you have some Smug arts and crafts friends who can do a little tile work. A small, high visibility area of beauty in the front, for example under your Rolls Royce espresso machine, will compensate for the fact that the rest of the place looks like a makeshift 70s rec room. Note: make sure that the plywood planks that line the walls are reclaimed. Tip: go to your local ghetto or low-income neighborhood and “reclaim” the wood from a house that bears a sign advertising reclaimed wood.  The sign will read “foreclosed” or “bank owned.” That way, your Smug coffee shop will have authentic rundown touches that fit with your bunker style dangling bare light bulbs.

Lesson 2: While you can skimp on decorating costs, you  do need a La Marzocca Strada Mechanical Paddle Commercial Espresso Machine so that your Smug customers will know you have the utmost control of the extraction rate of their single-source Ethiopian coffee. This is the most expensive thing you will buy for your Smug coffee shop, and it will cost you $15,000 because it is made by unionized Italian craftspeople in a workshop (you will not call it a factory) near Florence.
Lesson 3Okay, now that you are feeling shellshocked about the purchase of your Strada Mechanical Paddle, you can relax because you will not have to spend any money on uniforms for your staff.  You will only be hiring hipsters to work there, so just make sure they understand they have to maintain Grizzly Adams beards and wear hats and plaid shirts every day. Do not expect women to have facial hair; do not hire any who do. Unlike the men, the women need to be pretty, wear clean clothes, and appear to look in a mirror from time to time.

Lesson 4:  Because this is a Smug coffee shop and you will have Smug regular customers, you need to have a menu, printed on obviously recycled paper, that changes every day or at least seems to because you have a date on it. You will probably have the same coffee all the time, but if the third world region where your single-source coffee comes from begins a civil war that leaves the purebred coffee plantations in ruins, you will need to find a less war-torn banana republic to source from.  It does not matter; Smug customers will insist on Sub-Saharan African and Central American single-origin coffee, but which specific country is of no consequence. They do not know where those countries are and do not plan to visit them. It is much more important that you use reclaimed plywood clipboards to display your menus.

Lesson 5:  Try to think up other Smug touches so that you do not look crassly commercial. Of course you want to sell a lot of preciously priced coffee beans, faux-handcrafted architectural coffee cups, espresso machines vastly inferior to your Strada Mechanical Paddle, and branded t-shirts made by American Apparel, but it is bad if every object you place is for sale. You need at least one object that is not for sale. You may want to consider an antique steel test tube holder. Tip: do not get test tubes for it. That is the domain of those pretentious, now passé “molecular” restaurants. Get clear glass bottles instead, pour some filtered water in there, and get some local backyard flowers no one will know the name of. Native grasses with blossoms, which you previously knew as weeds, will be perfect. 

Lesson 6: You will have no problem attracting Smug customers as long as you have one rule and one rule only: all customers must bring a MacBook Pro. Post this rule if you wish.  You will get even more customers if you align your Smug coffee shop with Smug Apple products.

Smug Scout is finished teaching for today. However, she will go back to Intelligentsia soon to refresh her knowledge. She loves everything about that place!

Smug Farmers’ Market Find: 9/30

Today’s Smug farmers’ market find is this Compostables depository. Now technically Smug Scout has known about and used this Compostables depository for several years, so it may not be a new find, but it is still an important one to highlight, especially because Smug Scout was unusually grateful to have it there today. Part of being Smug is not putting food waste in the trash with the very, very few non-recyclable items you purchase. Smug Scout first saw compost many years ago in Germany, where it is called Biomüll (“biological” garbage) and has its own bins on the street to be picked up with trash and recyclables.  She always remembers how disgusting and rank those Biomüll bins were.

But now she is Smug and has her own problem with Biomüll.  It is still rank and disgusting, but now it is in her kitchen. She keeps a plastic bag under her sink, which she brings to the Mar Vista Farmers’ Market and empties every Sunday. That sounds easy and virtuous.

Too bad it is also rank and disgusting. This morning when Smug Scout reached under the sink to get the compost bag, she thought she smelled a rotting corpse. (She has actually never smelled a rotting corpse, but she now understands why people on TV throw up violently after exposure to one.) Then, to make matters more vile, she realized the bag, a bag she may have reused one time too many, had a leak, and a loathsome brown trail was crawling across her kitchen floor.  She shook her head in horror at the idea that her beautiful Gerbera daisies, Fuerte avocados, September Bright nectarines, and Lompoc asparagus could leave such unspeakable remains, that all those inedible stems and pits could metamorphose into such a stinking, seething mass.

The next problem is the disposal of this putrid bag of death. While Smug Scout does not shy away from performing Smug acts in public, the exception is when she is dealing with this gruesome, if ecologically high-minded, business. Now Smug Scout always arrives at the FM shortly before it opens at 9am, and while her main reasons are to get the prime produce and to avoid the murderous parking lot gridlock, her previously unacknowledged reason is to dump her compost without anyone nearby wondering if she is unloading half-decomposed body parts. When she emptied her repugnant load of organic sludge this morning, she also put the leaky plastic bag in the neighboring bin, the one for all other recyclables (yes, including plastic bags, you Smug San Franciscans!). That bag just had its final reuse.

Now you must all wish your farmers’ market had a Compostables depository! Smug Scout is sorry for you if you do not have such an opportunity to compost.

Smug SmackDown: Men in Skirts

Smug Scout has been quite tickled lately by all of the men in skirts. She approves of men who pay homage to women through their apparel choices. Still, she knows that not all of these men are feminists. She knows not all of these men want to fight for women’s reproductive rights, contribute money to Hillary’s Clinton’s future run for president, or discuss Lady Gaga’s weight gain.  She knows many of them are just plain Smug. In today’s Smug SmackDown, see if you can tell which of these three men in skirts is the Smug heavyweight.

Man in Skirt #1: Spotted at Scottish Games in Pleasanton, CA

Man in Skirt #2: Spotted in Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH

Man in Skirt #3: Spotted at Portsmouth Farmers’ Market in Portsmouth, NH

Smug Scout knows how difficult it must be to pick a winner and sees you must be struggling.  Therefore, she will help you with hypothetical conversations with the three men in skirts.  By the time you have read the third exchange, you will know the answer. Hint: look for Smug key words.

Conversation with Man in Skirt #1

  • Smug Scout: Why are you wearing a skirt?
  • Man in Skirt #1: It is a utili-kilt.
  • Smug Scout: Why are you wearing a utili-kilt?
  • Man in Skirt #1: I am at a Scottish festival.
  • Smug Scout: Is goth construction worker a new clan?
  • Man in Skirt #1: I don’t know. But it’s comfortable, and after I’ve had a lot of Scottish ale, it’s easy to—
  • Smug Scout: Please do not say one more word.

Conversation with Man in Skirt #2

  • Smug Scout: Why are you wearing a skirt?
  • Man in Skirt #2: It is a utili-kilt.
  • Smug Scout: Fine, why are you wearing a utili-kilt?
  • Man in Skirt #2: In case you couldn’t tell while you were pretending to take a picture of the whimsical mural next to me, I am actually working.  I have tools in my cargo pockets.
  • Smug Scout: Yes, I figured that the wheelbarrow was not just Smug ecological transportation. But why not wear cargo shorts?
  • Man in Skirt #3: Because when I go to the Daniel Street Tavern to wind down after work, I can drink a lot of non-local, non-artisanal, non-organic beer without needing to deal with—
  • Smug Scout: Please do not finish that sentence. Please rethink your beer choices.

Conversation with Man in Skirt #3

  • Smug Scout: Why are you wearing a skirt?
  • Man in Skirt #3: It is most certainly not a skirt. It is an organic cotton, handcrafted, local-vegetable-dyed utili-kilt.
  • Smug Scout: Wow! Why are you wearing that organic cotton, handcrafted, local-vegetable-dyed utili-kilt?
  • Man in Skirt #3: As you can see, I am at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. I just bought a vegetarian All-Day Breakfast Wrap and an Iced Organic Chai from White Heron Tea.
  • Smug Scout: But what does that have to do with wearing an organic cotton, handcrafted, local-vegetable-dyed utili-kilt?
  • Man in Skirt #3: I just answered your question!
  • Smug Scout: Yes, I suppose you did. But how do you keep the homemade vegetarian sausage and roasted local organic heirloom tomato sauce out of that thicket on your face?
  • Man in Skirt #3: Excuse me. I have to go buy organic wild dandelion greens, heirloom purple basil, and local backyard red sunflowers.
  • Smug Scout: Yes, indeed you do. Since you did not bring an appropriately crafted reusable bag, you should use your cargo pockets to carry your greens, herbs, and flowers.   Those pockets should be good for something. They obviously will never see an actual tool.

As you no doubt correctly guessed, Man in Skirt #3 is the winner.  But you should have figured that out as soon as you saw he was spotted at the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market. Those are the only Smug key words you really need.

Smug SmackDown: Reclaimed Wood Cutting Boards

Smug Scout does not care about professional wrestling, nor does she understand how anyone would choose to watch bulging roughnecks attack each other. However, Smug Scout does care about and understand reclaimed wood cutting boards, and she has noticed so many of them recently that she has put together her own Smug match for you to determine which of some recently spotted reclaimed wood cutting boards is the Smug heavyweight. Smug Scout will sideline the silly mixed sports idioms while you look at three contenders for most Smug reclaimed wood cutting board. Smug Scout asks you to read the descriptions, study the pictures, make a selection, and see if you agree with Smug Scout’s winner below. If you disagree, you lose.

1. This is a reclaimed wood cutting board from Ravensburg, Germany. Smug Scout bought it over the summer at a farmers’ market in Oberstdorf, a town not too far from the reclaimed wood site.

2.  This is a reclaimed wood cutting board on which a wine bar called Covell in Silver Lake serves its cheese assortment.

3. This is one of a few sets of hanging reclaimed wood cutting boards on display in some boutique on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica (L.A.’s other Smug epicenter after Silver Lake). Smug Scout cannot tell you the name of the store.

Smug Scout hopes it is obvious to you that #3 is the winner of most Smug reclaimed wood cutting board(s).  First she will explain why the runners-up lost.

  1. This German reclaimed wood cutting board was purchased in Germany where such products are not Smug but rather traditional, ordinary, and even cheaper than their mass-produced Chinese counterparts. Smug Scout only paid about $7 for this numbered reclaimed wood cutting board (19 out of only 25 crafted!), and she was the only customer who asked if the wood was local, sustainable, and of course reclaimed. The brisk German wood woman showed no interest in boasting about the provenance of the wood; she simply said “near Ravensburg” (“in der Nähe von Ravensburg” if you insist on the original) and gave Smug Scout a brochure in exchange for her 5 Euros and immediate departure.  Smug Scout asks you to study the German Economic Miracle (Wirtschaftswunder) to understand why “Made in Germany” makes pragmatic economic sense rather than puffed up Smug sense.
  2. This Silver Lake reclaimed wood cutting board was used to serve cheese and “accoutrements” (which is just a Smug way of attempting to transform apple slices and pistachios into an exotic French delicacy).
  3. This Santa Monica hanging set of reclaimed wood cutting boards is the clear winner because it is used for nothing other than a frivolous store window decoration.  As we know, an object’s Smug quotient rises in an inverse proportion to its actual utility. If that sounds repellently mathematical, how about some realistic household examples? If you have a knotty pine plank that you “reclaimed” under cover of night from a White Mountain hayseed’s firewood stockpile and you hang it horizontally above your architectural couch, you are very Smug, but if you use that “reclaimed” knotty pine plank as a TV tray, you are much less Smug. By the same token, if you have a set of antlers you “reclaimed” from a White Mountain hayseed’s hunting cabin and you hang it above your decorative fireplace, you are very Smug, but if you use those “reclaimed” antlers as a hatrack, you are much less Smug.

If Smug Scout may be honest, she is ever-so-slightly charmed by the hanging reclaimed wood cutting board tableau.  She thinks it is ever-so-slightly clever to attach colorful paper fake tree growth rings to this hanging reclaimed wood cutting board tableau. However, she does not see any utility.  Well, maybe she can think of one. She wonders if the colorful paper fake tree growth rings could be used to fixate the gaze of someone on an acid trip. On second thought, that is not a likely consideration of the hipster logger who slices fallen trees into reclaimed wood cutting boards. Thus, the prize must go to #3.

Stay tuned for the next Smug SmackDown: Men in Kilts!

Smug Pencils in Silver Lake

Smug Scout has just found her new favorite colored pencils. They are from a Smug store in Silver Lake (that is the Smug epicenter of Los Angeles for those of you in other places). The store is called ReForm School, which has a Smug capital “F” to make the name appropriately ironic for this competitive neighborhood. When Smug Scout walked in and saw the dizzying array of local, sustainable crafts, few of them suggesting any actual, practical use or utility, she knew ReForm School is ahead of most of its competition.

Smug Scout was most excited to see a faux-industrial steel basket filled with what she can only call “bunches” of rustic reclaimed wood pencils. Each bunch is wrapped in recycled brown paper with two rubber bands to hold it all together. There is no brand. Smug Scout thinks that is Smug, as if to announce pointedly: “the brand is local forest, not some evil corporation.”

Yet there is a problem. These bunches of reclaimed wood colored pencils do not come with a sharpener.  As much as Smug Scout can picture these reclaimed wood colored pencils adorning her desk, she knows that if she has to use a Bowie knife to whittle down the bark, they will end up as blood-stained shards that she will have to compost.

Now Smug Scout understands why the reclaimed wood colored pencils are displayed in a faux-industrial steel basket. The steel basket is not just a faux-industrial receptacle that reflects the store’s eco-ethos but rather an interior design tip. You are not meant to write, draw, or color with these pencils. Nothing so utilitarian. You are meant to exhibit them in your living room, perhaps on top of the dead log you call a single-source coffee table.  They may never write a word, but they tell your visitors that you are Smug. And that is all the function any Smug object really needs.

Smug Juice from Silver Lake

Every so often Smug Scout sees a product that is so Smug that it all but takes her breath away. This happened to her yesterday in Silver Lake where she went to observe the self-righteously Smug local color. She was waiting on a line that barely crawled forward (all the better to attract hype-seeking hipsters) at a Smug coffee source called Intelligentsia, when she spotted a hand-stencilled sign advertising “Cold Pressed Fresh Raw Juice Made by the Juice Maids 16OZ $9.50.” Underneath the sign was some yellow-green liquid in a Mason jar that had a tiny label attached to a piece of string; the string was hand-tied in a jaunty little bow. The label read “Spirit in the Sky” and listed the ingredients: “cantaloupe, orange, basil, lemon ♥.”

Obviously every aspect of the product naming, advertising, pricing, packaging, and appearance signals Smug.  Smug Scout happily shelled out ten bucks.  Smug Scout could just drink her cute Silver Lake spiritual juice and stop right there.  Too bad Smug Scout has a few questions.

  1. Why are the makers called Juice Maids? Were they formerly milkmaids who went vegan?  Are there eight of them like in “The Twelve Days of Christmas”? Smug Scout is amused by the idea of eight virginal women cold pressing her fresh raw juice. That is a large crowd surrounding a Mason jar. She wonders if they ever fight.
  2. Smug Scout understands that cold-pressing is important because pacifists do not want their gentle fruit and vegetables cut and ground by some savage blade, but why did they have to add “fresh raw”? Might we have otherwise expected the fruit to be rotten, moldy, buggy, and disgusting? Might we have otherwise expected the fruit to be cooked? Smug Scout does know that cooked fruit in a Mason jar is not called juice.  It is called backyard artisanal organic jam and costs much more than $9.50.
  3. What is that elusive fifth ingredient? Smug Scout imagines asking the Juice Maids for an answer to that (completely sarcastic) question.
  • Smug Scout: What is that elusive fifth ingredient?
  • Juice Maid: Love and spirituality.
  • Smug Scout: That sounds like two ingredients.
  • Juice Maid: You need both of them.
  • Smug Scout: Only if they come in a Mason jar with a bow tie. And a shot of organic vodka.

Smug Visitors’ Guide to the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market: Before you go

If you are a fan of both farmers’ markets and Smug sightings, you can do no better than the legendary Smug epicenter known as the Portsmouth Farmers’ Market.  Smug Scout can think of no better way to spend five hours early on a summer Saturday.  And she really means five hours.  She arrives at 8 am (or as close to 8 as a reluctant chauffeur will bring her since her own car is in L.A.) and stays till 1 pm. When the market ends, she sadly makes a final run-through to make sure there is no delicacy she has missed and of course to rescue any abandoned produce off the ground. So now you want to have this transporting experience, right? Here is how you need to prepare for your visit.

What to wear

Women: If you are from a big city, you may not be used to wearing all of these items when you will be out in public and seeing hundreds of people, but do not worry. If you try to wear your black sweaters, Prada shoes, or anything at all deemed fashionable, you will look like a foolish city slicker. You will receive contemptuous looks, and no one will talk to you, though the laconic New Hampshire farmers will reluctantly accept your money.  Go with any or all of the below list for maximum camouflaging.

  • Shorts, skirts, or lightweight cotton pants with cargo pockets
  • Functional flip-flops or sandals (NO Italian thongs! NO delicate straps!)
  • L.L. Bean type t-shirts, polos, or tank tops (NO pricey brands! NO European designers!)
  • Floppy hat, ideally made of fair-trade cotton or local barnyard straw
  • Sunblock (NO other makeup!)
Please do not blame Smug Scout if you find the list uninspiring. Please do not bill Smug Scout for all the clothes you need to buy. Even she tries to blend into the native habitat by wearing polo shirts, semi-cargo shorts, and flip-flops (if hand-made by craftswomen in Connecticut–she can only go so far).

 

Men: So, men, you will be surprised to hear that your list is almost identical to the women’s list.  Skirts with cargo pockets are fine for you, too, but you have to call them “utili-kilts” so you will seem sufficiently–or at least ironically–masculine. You can also wear hip t-shirts with messages or t-shirts with hip messages (Smug Scout does not care to parse that inconsequential difference).  You can trade the floppy straw hat for a baseball cap or some Brooklyn  hipster headgear if you do not want to look like Huckleberry Finn.

Children under five: Okay, you little gargoyles, Aunt Smug Scout was not about to forget you. Now since you are probably not buying your own clothes yet, you will need to use your best executive negotiating skills to ensure you wear what you want.  Do not let Mommy and Daddy put you in that mini Harley t-shirt your crazy ZZ Top uncle got you in Laconia. You prefer American Apparel t-shirts with eco-friendly messages.  Tell them you insist on those cute little khakis with cargo pockets.  Tell them you have to wear Crocs in two different colors, specifically not coordinated with your outfit, even though you agree with Smug Scout that those are hideously unstylish service wear for gardeners and cooks that have no business in public settings. Finally, throw a tantrum if they do not give you a floppy hat and sunglasses. Remind them you prefer to put on your own Neutrogena SPF 100+ Helioplex360 sunblock. You have both young skin and image to protect.

What to bring

Women and Men: If you are in the upper echelons of Smugness, you will bring a reusable bag made in New England, such as a Sea Bag from Portland, Maine, or anything you purchased at the League of NH Craftsmen. If you are striving for those upper echelons but know you are not there yet, you will bring a Whole Foods tote or some third world woven basket.  If you are barely aware of the local expectations, you will bring a flammable “cotton” Hannaford supermarket tote.  If you are anti-Smug, you will take a plastic bag everywhere you buy something and wave them around belligerently every time you use your hands to do something.

Other items to bring:

  • $100 in small bills per person
  • At least two blonde children under five, dressed and accessorized with none of your input or intervention (see above and below)

Children under five: Please make sure Mommy and Daddy know that you need your own reusable bag. You should not have to put your cinnamon cider donuts, artisanal Indian food, and organic curly kale in their bag.  Though they refuse to buy you that $180 black Kevlar Sea Bag you have your eye on, tell them you will accept a natural cloth Bull Moose tote.  Do not let them try to dump that ratty old Trader Joe’s bag on you.  You do not want anyone to think you support that chain’s unseemly use of non-recyclable plastic. You have standards. You are from Portsmouth.

How to get there

Women and Men: Sorry, not many options here.  If you must drive, you need to come in a Prius or Subaru Outback.  If you prefer a more showy entrance and exit, you need to come on an intentionally rattletrap old bike that has at least two baskets attached. That way, you can make a point of riding down the hill with your flowers and herbs flying in the breeze. (Some of these flowers and herbs will probably escape. Smug Scout does not blame them. She would not want to be transported so carelessly if she were a flower or herb. She knows that if she were a flower or herb, she would not look so fresh after a punishingly windy and public ride through downtown Portsmouth.)

Children under five: If you really have Mommy and Daddy in your thrall, then there is exactly one way you want to show up to the FM, and that is seated regally in your very own Radio Flyer All-Terrain Steel and Wood Wagon. This is your Prius, and you can boast it has better gas mileage than a Prius, because it runs on Daddy’s sweat (and from what you can tell, with no small amount of distaste, there is a surplus of that). Furthermore, if Mommy and Daddy are properly Smug, they have installed a reclaimed wood produce holding box under the seat. But do not stop there. Tell those Smug parents of yours you want a built-in reclaimed glass vase for your flowers.

Stay tuned for the next installment: what to do, buy, and eat when you go to the divinely Smug Portsmouth Farmers’ Market!