Not all little cafes are made alike. That warm glow you see bursting from the Fuel Shack? It's all the love and good energy cooked up by lovely Yolanda.
People are inherently GOOD. I know this, I love this, and I instinctively search out those people who ooze lots of it (goodness I mean). Which is why I love to meet new people and learn about what makes them tick. Do you ever meet someone new and feel like you could talk to them for hours about tons of things, and you freaking just met them? The best!
Once in a while I come across someone who really inspires me, which was the case on our recent So-Cal Road Trip. In preparation for the trip I did what I always do: I searched within Instagram locale-specific hashtags, and then continued to follow them until our departure date. In this case one of the hashtags I added was #lagunabeach, because I really wanted to get an idea of the area and what opportunities and activities and local businesses would interest me. Right away I see posts from a cute little cafe called The Fuel Shack. Posts are written by what seems to be the owner's hubby, and through his writing I can see he's clearly over the moon for her. I'm smitten, and I dig a little deeper.
“But halfway through our meal the door opened and right in front of us was Yolanda, greeting us in such a familiar and warm way it felt like we were in her kitchen at home. ”
I found that after 25 years as a pediatrician, including 10 years as Medical Director of a community clinic providing health care and health education to uninsured and underinsured residents of the surrounding areas, Yolanda decided to open this cafe to continue to give back to her community. I know immediately that I would love her.
I also found that the Fuel Shack had recently been broken into, and had their front door window (which included their pretty sunshine logo) totally smashed. Hubby posts that Yolanda is understandably quite sad and asks customers to please stop by to say hi, that it would put a smile on her face. They offer free coffee & pastry for a year to anyone with any information about the crime. These people are so relatable and real.
At this point I know we HAVE to make a stop at this adorable little place if at all possible. So I include it on our rough itinerary, and add it to my Google map.
Congratulations! You Did It!!
You know that scene in Elf where he sees the sign in the coffee shop window that says "World's Best Coffee" and he walks in and yells his congratulations to them?? That's kind of how I felt as I walked into The Fuel Shack. Yes I can be a dork. But it was so fun to actually be there (and yes, at this point I was really hoping it wasn't all fake promotion and we would have a positive experience). Yolanda was nowhere in sight, but the 20-something man at the counter was super friendly and helpful, joking around with us. We went to a table outside and waited for our food, and when two male employees brought out our food - which looked AMAZING!! - I was a little bummed that we still hadn't seen Yolanda. Maybe it was her day off; whatever, there's still a good story about how we got here and this food we were eating was absolutely delicious.
But halfway through our meal the door opened and right in front of us was Yolanda, greeting us in such a familiar and warm way it felt like we were in her kitchen at home. Seriously, this woman is so full of life. I had to tell her how we found her, and she loved the story. She then told us all about how she'd started and about some of the hardships of business - longer hours than she'd expected, finding good employees, etc - but also about how rewarding it has been, about the positive community impact she was trying to make, including the next week's public meeting about crime prevention with a speaker from the local police department.
Again, I could have talked to this woman for hours. But obviously I wasn't going to bother her like that, so we started to clean up our dishes. She thanked us so much for making a point to come visit them, and she asked us if she could wrap us up an Auntie Carol's Wanna Nanna Nutty Wuddy Banana Bread with Yummy Wummy Frosting to go. Uh, what? Yes of course! Though I will absolutely need you to repeat that. Three more times please.
Thank you Yolanda. For all of your hard work and long hours, and being such a wonderful influence on those you've touched. Consider me one of them!