The bookstores, Barnes and Nobles, are located in most major cities of the United States. Chances are that you remember the delicious smell you get once you go through the main door. That awesome mix of new book smell and freshly brewed coffee has an instant comforting effect on your well being. It seems designed to make you relaxed and excited all at the same time. It is one of my favorite places to go, and that is the reason I chose it. The store that I went to observe is located in the Miami south west area. It is located on Kendall Dr, close to the Turnpike.
This is close to my house. Even though I have been there many times, I really have never paid attention to the people or the place itself in much detail. The first thing you notice once you go through the main doors is a sign to your right that says Barnes & Nobles Cafe. The cafe is very well divided from the rest of the store by a wooden fence that is about four feet tall. The area of the cafe has the shape of a big oval. The cashier is in the back of the cafe. There are about fifteen small and round metal tables with orange tops.
The chairs are made of black plastic, and the seat is upholstered in black and grey fabric. By the cashier, you pass next to four tables, two on each side, full of products for sale. These tables are strategically placed because in order to get to the cashier you cannot avoid passing next to the tables full of tempting gift wares. One table has a stack of boxes of Godiva chocolates in the shape of a heart. Another table has many cans of gourmet tea of different flavors. A third table is filled with coffee mugs, coasters and thermoses.
The last table has a big sign that says Happy Valentines Day. The floor is black and white ceramic tiles, alternating like a chess board. The ceiling is made of white tiles with recessed lights. I counted fifteen water sprinklers installed in the ceiling around the cafe area. I see only one camera; it is located in the ceiling behind the cashier. The walls of the cafe are covered with brown wood from the floor to the middle of the wall. The rest of the wall is covered with green wallpaper. The walls that are facing the street are made out of glass.
Behind the counter, there are three employees, two women and one man. Their attire consists of a cream colored hat, a black t-shirt and a green apron. There are three signs hanging from the ceiling in the cashier area. One says Pick up order here, another says Enter here, and another says Gift Cards. There is a cooler that is stocked with fruit juices, cans of red bull, and bottles of water. There is a glass shelf containing cakes, muffins, and pretzels. There are three menus on the walls. They have wooden frames with the titles cafe, refreshments, and specials.
The people are equally important; there are approximately thirty-eight people in the cafe area. There are a variety of cultures represented. There is the same quantity of men and women. The ages are between fourteen to sixty years. Some people are dressed in business attire and some are dressed more casual. I see several people using laptops. I look around and I see a man around forty years old with a textbook titled Modern Chemistry explaining something from the book to a kid around fourteen years old.
On another Saturday, around 4:30 pm, I arrived to the cafe, and as soon as I entered I smelled the aroma of coffee mixed with freshly baked bread. The cafe is full of people so I have to stand in a corner taking notes waiting until somebody leaves from a table. There are approximately forty people seating and eight people making a line to buy food and drinks. The majority of the people are ordering cups of coffee; only one woman orders two cups of tea. The difference is that now it is more crowded, noisier, and all the people are dressed casually.
Today I see some familiar faces like the man around forty years old that last time was explaining something about Chemistry to a student but the difference is that now he is with a different kid. From previous observation, it seems as if this professor uses the cafe for private tutoring. In another, table I see a man that I also saw before and who now stares at me from time to time. I think he recognizes me from last time. He is around thirty or forty years old. He is drinking a hot coffee and reading a newspaper. The last time he was reading a book.
I think I am going to interview him because the people working in the cafe are pretty busy. Thirty five minutes have passed; I sit at a table that emptied a few minutes ago. Some people have left, but some others have arrived. Almost everyone is drinking coffee, and seven people are eating bagels, cakes, and pretzels. One person around twenty five years old is busy typing on his laptop; he has some textbooks next to his computer. I interviewed an older gentleman that was sitting next to me in the Cafe. He was reading a newspaper and having a cup of coffee when I asked him if I could interview him for just a few minutes.
He kindly said sure. I asked him how often he comes to the cafe and he responded that he comes two to three times a week unless he is busy with work. I asked him if he comes alone or with someone and he said that sometimes he comes with friends, but today he came by himself. He was working and needed to get some fresh air. Today he came because he wants to take a break from his working. He works from home so when he gets sleepy or he needs a break he comes here to have some coffee. I ask him if normally he likes to drink and eat here and if he can recommend me something from their menu.
He responds that his favorites are a regular Latte made with soy milk and the apple straddle. I have a weakness for sweet treats even though I am trying to cut back. It is very easy to put on weight at my age, he said. In addition, he recommends I try the cheese pretzel, which are delicious, especially when they warm it up for you and its cold outside, He said. He finishes the interview saying Even though this place is usually crowded, I find I read here better than my house where the phone and my family always seem to be distracting me.
Consequently, we can say that this person uses Barnes and Nobles Cafe like a refuge of his busy daily life. Also, he enjoyed reading while treating himself with the food and drinks that are offered in the cafe section. I think that the physical setting, like the way of everything is strategically place, the tables, the chairs, the cafe shop, is constructed to create a social atmosphere as well as privacy. Even though the cafe is always full of people and the tables are close to one another, the way the tables are arranged gives you the feeling of security and privacy.
You can stay as long as you want at a table, staying relaxed, reading, studying, or even socializing with your friends, while being tempted with a blend of pleasant smell of freshly baked bread, cinnamon and coffee. Another example of privacy is when I went to the cafe on Saturday at 9:30 pm. First, I thought that I was going to be late and that they were going to close, but the cafe was full like always. I had to stand because there were no tables available. A man saw me writing while standing up and offered me to sit at his table where there was an empty chair. He was drinking Red Bull in a small plastic cup.
He looks Latin, he has black eyes, black hair, and his face was covered with stubbles. He was wearing a black shirt and a black blazer. He was reading a book that had a lot of formulas. Later, when he left, I saw that the name of the book is Engineering Economic Analysis. He looks like he was studying. He had a blackberry phone, a black wallet and a blue pen next to him on the table. It passed around forty five minutes while I was writing my observations, and what caught my attention was that, in all this time, this man did not try to flirt with me or start a conversation.
Aside from sharing the same little round table, he wants to maintain the anonymity. He wishes to remain unnoticed or unidentified in front of me and in front of the public sphere. He wants his privacy. As I have said, people that go to Barnes and Noble Cafe not only go there to kill some time or to meet with friends, but to isolate themselves in their own world, using instruments like headphones, laptops or simples books. People not only go there to drink or eat food, but to find some privacy in a crowded place like Barnes and Noble Cafe.