Feelings of  ownership

Cooper & Wolf cafe in Clapton has closed. Friday before last. Just like that. I had coffee there on the last morning and no one said it was the last day. There’s no sign outside and their website and social media gave no clues as to what was happening or why. Some thoughts:

  1. It’s their business, they can do what they want if it’s legal. I’m sure at the same time as closing the doors and not opening them again, they were filling out forms with Companies House and doing all the wind up stuff the has to be done. You just don’t have to tell your cafe customers that you are closing. You just close. All service that you gave to them has ended. Technically, it ended each time a customer paid and left. They came for an advertised service, they paid for it, and they left. There’s no post breakfast service level agreement. No dividends rewarded for buying tea. Your cafe business owes nothing to its customers when it closes.

  2. I feel gutted! The place was amazing. Best breakfasts in Clapton by far. They knew me and my quirks (I liked Tabasco sauce with my scrambled eggs and gravlax and regular staff always brought it without me having to ask), and I was getting to know them (in that slightly impersonal and awkward way you get to know cafe staff). I even got to know some of the regular dogs and their owners. It was the place that I went. It was my regular. It was my cafe. I had invested my time into it. Recommend it to other people. I felt for it. Now they’ve taken it from me, without asking or even warning me. How dare they cheat me like this. They owe me. I loved them.

  3. After searching online for news or reasons for the shuttered doors, I was unimpressed to find their website, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook all months out of date. This added to the disappointment of them being closed and made me wonder if I had it all wrong. They seemed so caring and considered in the way they ran the cafe, but perhaps this lack of communication and disregard for those that follow them was the reality: They didn’t actually care about me. I was just a mark, a victim, an idiot they tricked into caring so they could charge me central London coffee prices in outer London residential areas. The bastards. I hate them.

  4. Oh crikey, maybe they’re ill. Maybe something bad has happened that’s forced them to close. Oh wow I feel a bit bad now. Paranoid also, but a bit bad too. I hope no one is hurt.

  5. Chatting at a 4th birthday party this weekend, some friends confirmed the news. Local gossip said it was so, maybe something about rent increase, or just because of the owners move to Margate, but either way, their Instagram account has apparently confirmed it. They’re closed. Searching today for the Instagram account I see for myself. Also I see a cared for and considered social media stream that I wasn’t part of, but that 1,215 other followers were. I see a kind farewell, and a lovely pick of the lovely staff, some that I don’t actually recognise. Also I see that the lovely chef I liked moved to New Zealand 7 weeks ago. I hadn’t even noticed. I just thought she was on holiday perhaps. Or busy out back where I couldn’t see her. Now I feel like a tourist. An outsider. I thought I was a regular, that I was special because they remembered I liked hot sauce, but they were more invested in my than I was in them. They owe me nothing.

While this rollercoaster of observations and expressions about a business and service that I liked is slightly hammed up, it does kind of reflect some thoughts and feelings that I had over the past two weeks, and that I can relate to on the other side, after closing my own business last year.

While we may distance ourselves from service providers and customers in professional and service contexts, it’s almost impossible not to get emotionally involved in interactions that we repeat and choose to stick with. It’s a powerful part of building a brand and once again makes me consider the potential importance of closure experiences, even if just as a point to reverse engineer from, in order to identify the most valuable details which create the greatest feelings of ownership and care, both for providers and consumers.