I collect old things. As anyone who's spent any time in the last 30 years with me knows, I have a fascination with old cars, old watches, old fans, old buildings, old posters, old books. My interest in Old doesn't have much to do with voguish retro currencies in design, or with reimagined contemporary interpretations of old things. I'm not much interested in the BMW Mini Cooper - as nice as that car actually is - but the Austin Mini, well, that's different.
Now, there's a type of vintage-enthusiast who prizes originality and authenticity, which translates into a quest for an experience that is perfectly faithful to that of the first users of the article in question. My own affinity runs to mating old form with new function, the better to enjoy the Progress of Man, as it relates to technology in particular.
Which brings the casual observer, and even myself, when I'm in a more reflective mood, to wonder what the point is of seeking vintage things, only to then endeavor to upgrade what's under the hood, to more closely approximate a contemporary experience. I think that Old speaks to me because it represents a journey, tells a story about the places we've been and about experiences we've had, and gives us a unique perspective on how we got here, and became who we are. Old things and old stories inform us about the present, and sometimes, taken in context, allow us to more wisely guide our trajectory to the future. Planting stakes in the past however, to the exclusion of experiencing the present, is not a particularly attractive paradigm to me. The present is a better place in many ways, and at any given moment, represents the sum of our experiences and the wisdom that we have acquired along the way, with all the advantages that that bestows upon us. It's live TV, and I wouldn't miss it for the world. So no dusty bookshelves for me, no faded glories or romanticized good-old-days filters. No. I like my view of The Past as unvarnished as it can be, and preferably shiny and well chromed, the way I imagine it was when it was The Present. Above all, it needs to run. I don't want a shiny objet d'art taking up room to no useful purpose.
Lulu's is going to be 25 years old next year, and I'm going to be 50. I've spent half my life on that weird street corner presided over by the Town Clock at the intersection of five different, confusingly named streets. It's been a good run, and it mostly happened when I wasn't paying attention. Oddly and fortuitously enough, I enjoy coming into work exactly as much as I did 25 years ago, which is to say a lot, except when I have to be industrious about things, which is when my incurable laziness becomes a bit of an impediment. My experiences peddling coffee in Santa Cruz have grown to fill a large room, and it's safe to say, I think, that Lulu's has become a fixture in the fabric of Santa Cruz. There was a time when I wondered if it would ever break free of its past as a good time 1970's-era fern bar, but time thankfully took care of that.
In its contemporary form, Lulu's has been many, many things to many, many people. We've had thousands upon thousands of customers and crews pass through our doors, collectively leaving their indelible mark on what was a fairly simple vision for a pretty corner coffee shop in college town America. We set out to do nice things, to do coffee and café better than the next guy, and I don't think we've ever wavered in that commitment. We've grown a bit in size and scale, and what constitutes good coffee and good café has taken on different aspects as the years have passed. Through it all, we've at once continuously embraced new technologies and new interpretations of our concept while reaching back into our ever-deepening roots for perspective and guidance on how to meet the future. It's yielded the peculiar amalgam of past and present that Lulu's is today, and I think is a fairly good predictor of where we'll be tomorrow. I think we've at once defied age and embraced it, remained relevant and stayed timeless. Lulu's is what I see as the essence of functional vintage. It's a reliable daily driver, mated to styling that they don't make anymore.
As the year passes, and we start the cycle over yet again, I'd like to pause to thank all of the customers and crews who have loved Lulu's so well, brought our little businesses alive and made them such joyous places. I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to this community and to all of our stakeholders, past and present, for making Lulu's what it is, in the process giving me a deeply woven tapestry of memories and wisdom.
To you and yours, all the best in the New Year :-)