I met a man recently who wants to help us. He’s not a therapist or a minister for a mega-church. He didn’t write a self-help book and he doesn’t teach time management for corporate clientele.
He makes coffee.
Gregory Mandallaz sits behind his counter watching the world speed by outside the shop he appropriately named Simply Coffee. It’s “quaint” in the way one imagines when one puts quote marks around the word quaint. Sparse, small, rustic and modestly decorated with the wares of local artisans, it’s tucked away on a side street off a busy Magnolia Boulevard.
Step inside and you feel the time warp peel off behind you, shed like wet clothes on a rainy day. Gregory just wants us to have a cup of coffee and enjoy a little peace. If you like to search endlessly for parking, wait in line for your coffee and have people scream at you when your order is ready, this is not your place.
The first thing I notice when I visit Gregory is the table in the middle of the room. It’s just a dining table, like the one in your breakfast nook. But it always has a newspaper on it. You feel like you’ve wandered into his den. A newspaper on a table like that invites one to open it and stay for a while. Sit with friends and strangers.
Like his shop, Gregory is warm, friendly and welcoming. He can’t talk without smiling, and his smile is addictive. Each time a person walked by his shop, he waved at them as if he knew them. Then it occurred to me. He does.
“I like to speak with everybody with my bad English,” he says. “I smile and I think people like that.”