I will admit that I am a total sucker for that Apple commercial that makes having kids look all magical. I may have even rewound it once or twice on the PVR. I would have totally hated this commercial when I was single (“not everyone is having babies!”), but now that I’m on the other side, I’ve been forced to admit that, yeah, ok, lots of people have babies. Clearly, Apple gets that parents are a huge demographic — a demographic that spends money. So why haven’t coffee shops figured this out?
If anyone needs coffee, it’s the sleep-deprived parents of an infant. We will happily drop $6 on a specialty coffee, more than once day if necessary. And especially if you’re a stay at home parent or on a parental leave and cooped up in the house all day, a trip to a coffee shop might be the highlight of your week, and you’ll happily buy not only coffee, but all the baking you don’t have time to do anymore. You’d think coffee shops would love parents with babies, but when we visited Ottawa this summer with Claire I realized that in most of my favorite coffee shops (and restaurants) there was no place to change a baby. Admittedly, some of these are in older buildings that aren’t even wheelchair accessible, let alone able to accommodate a counter in the washroom big enough to change a baby. That said, our favorite scone shop moved from a tiny character home to a huge venue in a brand new office building — still no space to change a baby. Clearly parents with children did not figure into the owners’ new plans. This I just don’t get.
Long ago I was a barrista at Saskatoon’s late great Caffe Sola, possibly the least child-friendly coffee shop ever: the furniture was made of slate, granite, and steel, with toddler-head-height pointy corners; the floor was concrete, and the coffee cups were hand made by the ceramic artist Mel Bolen. Yet a few brave parents would come and camp out there for hours with their small people, because the coffee was amazing, the food was wonderful, and the atmosphere was glorious (hello, roaring fire in the hand-carved fireplace on cold mornings).
Sadly, Sola is no longer with us, but thankfully, one of the former pillars of Sola, baker and barrista extraordinaire Nikita Brown, has opened Citizen Cafe & Bakery. Same great fair trade organic artisan coffee, new and amazing food, gorgeous atmosphere, and this: Citizen is incredibly child-friendly. First of all, they have a change table in the bathroom (anyone who’s had to change a baby on his or her lap while sitting on the toilet in a tiny bathroom will totally get why this is so crucial). And it’s in a bathroom that is not specifically marked “women’s”, so dads can change babies too (I’m obsessed with this). There is a sunny little play area and children’s table near a cool space with comfy couches, chunky knitted bean bags, and armchairs. This area is somewhat separate from the rest of the coffee shop, so if babies are getting restless, people having coffee meetings or reading the paper can still do so in peace. Because the armchairs face away from the rest the shop and are up against a dividing wall, a mom could probably breastfeed pretty comfortably there.
In a neighboring community to ours in Edmonton, there is a coffee shop that is specifically for moms and babies. Frankly, the coffee is bad, the food is mediocre, and the atmosphere is meh, but moms go there because there is a nice diaper changing area at the back, play area for the kids, and no one will be annoyed by fussing babies. And although these latter features are nice, I can’t really say I enjoy the feeling of being segregated in a “moms only” coffee shop — it’s kind of like having coffee in a daycare. Citizen manages to make going for coffee an adult indulgence that is accessible to both parents and non-parents (it’s also wheelchair accessible). Being accessible is clearly good business: Citizen is always packed. Inclusiveness is also just something to be expected from a shop whose menu features sandwiches named after Harvey Milk, Louis Riel and Tommy Douglas. Now if only we can convince Nikita to open one in Edmonton…