Yolanda’s Café:
 Origin Story Born of Appreciation.

By Art Durand

We have a Starbucks in Quakertown. (Two things to get out of the way here. 1) Starbucks is pretty much shit in it’s corporate treatment of employees etc. and Quakertown is just plain fun to say.)

On with the story…

In the beginning of the pandemic it was a place I’d drive through, get a coffee and head off to the lake to See, Feel, possibly make a picture but more to simply Be. They were running on a skeleton crew and I felt truly appreciative they were there even with very limited hours of operation. I would always begin my interaction at the drive through ‘Greetings and Salutations, thanks so much for being here’. This evolved to ‘Greetings and Salutations oh fine and noble starbuckians, thank you so much for being here, serving much needed caffeine to the masses and helping the world to have a bright spot in their day and other take-offs and riffs in that appreciative and joyful expression, though nearly always starting with Greetings and Salutations in a very gregarious and full of life voice and heart, and most importantly I felt very genuine in the appreciation and playfulness.

One day I’ve got my sister in my ear talking as I pull up to the drive through. Quick note on my sister, she loves improv, in classes for the past few years, is very funny and quick. Anyway, so I greet them, make my order and the woman in the speaker asks me, ‘would you like to put a name to this?’. So, at times, perhaps more often than not, I hear things in strange ways. So I ask her, ‘so any name or are you asking for a particular name?’ She hesitates then says, ‘sure, any name you want’. My sister is hearing all of this and begins chanting in a nearly cheerleader voice, ‘Yolanda, Yolanda, Yolanda, Yolanda…’ So I say Yolanda. And it begins. I’ve been Yolanda ever since. This is probably the third crew and they all know me as Yolanda, they officially have proclaimed me their best and most fun customer and the one they look forward to hearing in the drive through. How it brightens their day etc. . . Here’s the thing though. What actually happens is no matter how I’m feeling, what I’ve just listened to about the world, what I’m thinking as I’m driving there it all goes out the window. As I queue up my whole perspective on the world shifts, my thinking, the feeling of my body, everything shifts. I feel a whole body flow of appreciation for these people I’ve befriended in an odd way. It becomes a simple truth that the world is finer because they are there, and we meet and greet each other in this wonderful, exuberant, full of life way.

Wow, I have tears in my eyes feeling how special this is to me and all born from appreciation.

I took this appreciation one step further when I’d pulled up and they were all a little down. Turns out corporate management was leaning on them (during the pandemic when they were working short-handed every shift). So I asked for a place I could write a letter or something. They gave me the district managers card with an email on it. I wrote an appreciation email of the whole crew of the whole store. Stating how I’ve driven across the country and been to Starbucks stores all over and these are the kindest, hardest working, friendliest Starbucks people I’ve yet to interact with etc, etc, etc.

It made a difference and the letter still hangs on their wall there, as it came back to them through management.

I always always always begin with an appreciation of what they do there. It’s always something that comes in the moments but begins with Greetings and Salutations . . . And my heart feels huge joy in the greeting, in the moment how everything is right with the world regardless of what may be going on outside the bubble that is the drive through at the Quakertown Starbucks.

One day, I drive up to the window and they are all gathered around and out comes a gift, a picture hand painted by one of them, the back signed by the crew. Tears ran down my face, what a tremendous thing it was, it is. (An aside, I’m Unclbird to my nephew and niece which all began when following my sister and her wife to Stanford hospital with my sisters first child, Madison, in the car. I had walkie talkies (before the iPhone came out) so we could stay in contact. Over the walkie talkie comes, ‘Unclebird, Unclebird, come in, this is Baby Bird, do you read?’ Thus Unclbird, aka Birdman was born. Coincidence? I don’t think it as that. I feel more like it’s how genuine connection, appreciation, gratitude and such things allows others to feel into us and us into them in ways beyond words, history, herstory, or the like and it comes through in wonderful miraculous ways.)

Appreciation opens worlds which are just out of reach until a few simple words unlock the door.

If you’ve gotten this far I want to appreciate you for making your way through this wild mind’s methods of conveying a simple story which continues to touch my heart.