Finally one day a tenant more articulate than the others made this pronouncement: ‘Nobody cared what we wanted when they built this place. They threw our houses down and pushed us here and pushed our friends somewhere else. We don’t have a place around here to get a cup of coffee or a newspaper even, or borrow fifty cents. Nobody cared what we need. But the big men come and look at that grass and say, “Isn’t it wonderful! Now the poor have everything?”’ —The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs
My job as owner-operator is simple: keep every single plate spinning in the air. Simple enough, yeah—but easy? Certainly not.
Case in point: I missed my publishing deadline for the newsletter’s last edition and am now playing catch up. It’s also been a busy start to the year. We came back from the holidays to a broken freezer, finalized negotiations and onboarded our new coffee vendor (more on that in the next edition), and I managed to sneak in quick jaunt to Melbourne with my family over the last weekend of the month.
But back to keeping those plates spinning. Since it launched last year, Notion’s recurring database templates has helped our crew track what’s happening week to week, allocate resources so people can do their assigned jobs, and keep everyone accountable for the workload. It’s also useful for communicating scheduled and impromptu visits from stakeholders, VIPs, utility crews, repairfolk, sales reps, etc.
I tried to create a flexible enough system that lets us reassign tasks as the week develops (read: as new fires spontaneously combust) or shift priorities as new tasks get delegated to free up my time so I can attend to other things. It’s not a perfect system and still requires some bandwidth to manage as the week goes on, but it absolves us of the guilt we might feel should certain tasks fall by the wayside—the lovely thing about time is that there’s always another day, or another week into which we can slot said tasks.
And it’s certainly an improvement over our old system, which was just writing each other messages on the kitchen whiteboard or resorting to texts (within reasonable work hours).
I’m someone who really dislikes micromanaging. I’m particular about how people should go about doing their jobs—restocking is the ultimate form of empathy: do you care enough about your co-worker to make sure they have enough consumables to get through a round of service you may not be there for?—but once you show me a degree of competence, I’m happy to leave you well enough alone. I want to give you every ounce of agency you deserve; you might even figure out a way to do things better than how I’ve taught.
In the early days of running the shop, it was incredibly easy to get carried away by the sheer volume of tasks that needed to get done outside of opening hours. Hiring staff means I can effectively outsource the running of the shop, even as the complexity of tasks has increased; I still feel like I’m not doing nearly enough for the business.
But here I’m faced with a choice: do I let the thing consume me and spit me back out ad nauseam, or do I keep showing up to do the work and settle for whatever it is I can get done within a humane amount of time?
foraging for joy
Last weekend marked the first family vacation we’ve taken together since the pandemic started. All five of us flew to Melbourne and back over the public holiday, and it was every bit as wonderful as the time I visited less than six months ago for the Melbourne International Coffee Expo.
We stuck to the CBD mostly and I made Market Lane’s Dairy Hall outlet my local; the same warm and attentive staff who served my during my MICE visit were there still.
Blessed are the patient, for they will reap books most desired at unbelievably low prices: I whiled away a summer afternoon in the cool underground of City Basement Books, which yielded some great secondhand finds, including the source of this edition’s quote and a title that’s long been on my ‘To Buy’ list.
I also managed to catch an early morning screening of Tár at Cinema Nova in Carlton. It definitely merits a close rewatch and is one of the handful of movies whose runtime I barely noticed in spite of its length. Highly, highly recommend if you like casually dissecting abuses of power and institutional shortcomings through a gendered lens.