One almond latte, if you please | Wally’s World

There was a time in the distant past when a friend and I opened a coffeehouse in Richmond, Virginia. We called it the “Rhinoceros” and, for a few months, it was the hottest ticket in town. Around two o’clock one tired morning, we kicked back with the last cups of stale coffee and joked about the success of our business. He suggested we start a national chain of places; i.e., Rhinoceros, Inc.

That was one of the silliest things I’d ever heard.

Roughly twenty years later, Starbucks opened in Seattle and on the Big Board at twenty bucks a share. the idea no longer seemed silly. For a few weeks I pondered investing a couple grand in the upstart company, but finally decided not to. Today, there’s a Starbucks or two in every square block of every city or suburb, everywhere on the whole planet and that investment that I toyed with might be worth $200,000 dollars.

Well, what can I say. Business and finance have never been my strong suit.

I used to visit one Starbucks or the other on a regular weekly basis, until I decided my favorite latte was almond flavored made with almond milk and this caused a problem. You see, Starbucks didn’t carry almond syrup. I complained about this, but to no avail. I suspect adding a flavor to their menu required the approval of the stock-holding, corporate-level execs on the 50th floor of Seattle’s Columbia Tower.

Anyway, to make this long story short, today I patronize “The Local: A Modern Day General Store and Coffee House” on Cole Street. It’s a really fine coffeehouse, a quaint family enterprise as opposed to Starbucks’ corporate, robotic efficiency. But, it’s not much of a general store, at least — as its name implies — not in the traditional sense. It’s more like an art gallery with a display of oils and watercolors that seem to change every week or so and collections of cut aluminum sculptures, hand-crafted jewelry, and delicately scented candles.

Friendly people come and go, nodding hello and goodbye. Though a number of them sit in an isolated corner and fool around with their iPhones, a larger number gather at the tables and, believe it or not, they actually talk with one another. Stranger still, no one is playing chess.

Most Sunday afternoons I meet Joe Thaler and we park ourselves in the front window, where we gaze upon the wonders and excitement of downtown Enumclaw. Joe is a former New Yorker who moved, with his slight accent intact, to our mossy little corner of the world several years ago.

And then there’s Amanda, the barista who welcomes everyone with her happy, effervescent personality. She’s a charming young lady that takes some pride in her work and mixes a really swell drink.

So, if you find yourself wandering about town and you’re seized by a sudden powerful desire for a latte — which could surely happen because, no matter how well disguised, caffeine can get a pretty severe hook on you — instead of driving to a Starbucks or one of the out-of-town espresso stands, just stroll down to the Local. It’s a good place to be.

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