Off the Cuff: Hannah S-P and Lonnie Bass, Slow Train baristas
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College senior Lonnie Bass and Hannah Scharlin-Pettee OC ’13 are baristas at the Slow Train Café. Bass has been a barista for two years, while Scharlin-Peettee began brewing this past fall. Bass and S-P sat down with the Review to discuss coffee, the Vengaboys and their strangest moments on the job.
How did you land the job here?
HSP: I graduated [last spring], then I applied, but I was smart about it. I applied several months before I wanted to start, because I knew this place was very competitive for hiring.
LB: I’m obsessed with coffee. I’ve been obsessed with coffee since I was 14, and this seemed like an excellent place to work. And I had just discovered this place as a haven to do homework and see my friends; working here seemed like a seamless transition … I did my training shifts with all the original staff, the first wave of people who had worked here, which was really cool –– The Vengaboys.
Is that what they were called?
LB: Yes. So our coffee machine is named the Venga-bus, and it says ‘we like to party’ on it. And there was like a Vengaboys obsession. They [ultimately] banned the Vengaboys Pandora station; it was a little intense for Slow Train.
HSP: The way we play music at Slow Train is we have a business Pandora that plays appropriate music. It’ll censor stuff.
LB: The Vengaboys station is very upbeat.
HSP: It sucks. It’s terrible. It’s a lot of European House and techno.
And who established the prohibition on the Vengaboys?
LB: Our boss.
And the old wave of Slow Train baristas, do you think they’ve achieved a semi- legend status?
HSP: Yes, and it’s because they all were on the soccer team, and they were all pretty attractive.
LB: They were all hot bros.
HSP: Then [word got out and] it was this coffee shop with hot bros.
Why did they all end up working here, do you think?
HSP: Both of our owners were into soccer.
LB: Jessa [an owner] is Blake’s wife, and Blake is the boys’ soccer coach. And Zack played soccer when he went to Oberlin.
HSP: It’s soccer city.
LB: I feel like a lot of people don’t know that.
You’re not going to be working here for much longer, how does that feel?
LB: It’s a little weird, definitely. I’ve been looking into similar coffee shops where I might work. I don’t know, this place has [changed a lot] since I started working here. I had a stint at The Local then I came back here. I’ve worked anywhere from 18 to 28 hours per week. It’s been crazy, but I’ll miss it.
What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened on the job?
LB: Hannah works when all the weirdos come in. She closes a lot more than I do, and the late night customers [tend to be weirder]. Maybe they’re drunk, I don’t know. Laughs. Late night customers definitely make for better stories than the midday ones.
HSP: I’ve gotten hit on a few times, and I think other co-workers have gotten hit on in creepier ways. A friend of mine was on the job, and one of the customers was secretly filming her. I had a customer come up to me who just bought chocolate-covered blueberries at Ben Franklin and was like, ‘Can I feed one to you?’ [A few weeks ago] I was at the counter, and this kid came up and said, ‘If I blow your mind with a magic trick will you give me free coffee?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, you can try.’ And then he did.
He blew your mind?
HSP: Yeah. It was insane.
What did he do?
HSP: I don’t know. Sorcery, man. He just did some basic card tricks that I’m sure any aspiring magician would know.
Are you a coffee snob now?
HSP: No. Some of us are. And this is going to sound really snobby, but we’re a third-wave coffee shop. It’s not like a Starbucks. Coffee art is a thing here. If you go to The Local, they’re really serious there, like scientific shit. There’s this guy Liam who works for us, and he is passionate about coffee.
LB: He’s a freshman in the College, and he’s from Oberlin. And he wasn’t into coffee at all when he started working, and now he’s so obsessed with it; it’s nuts. He’ll be like, ‘what is the dif- ference between a pour-over of an Ethi- opian when you have 23.5 grams versus 23 grams?’ And we’re like, ‘probably nothing, Liam.’ It completely pays off. He only works at The Local, and they have stepped it up so hard, and I think it’s partly because he’s taken on a bigger role in the coffee making. When the Lo- cal first opened, the major distinction between The Local and Slow Train was supposed to be that The Local would be mostly to-go. We didn’t even have ceramic-ware when we first opened. We were hoping it would take away the to-go traffic from Slow Train, but then people would find the two chairs in The Local and just sit down there and drink their coffee. It turned into a more arti- san place, but that wasn’t its original purpose.
Any favorite anecdotes?
HSP: Yes! So this one time, two stu- dents [were] having sex in the bathroom … at noon. In the middle of the day, we always clean the bathroom. One of our staff was trying to get in, and they were waiting and waiting and no one came out. After a while, a girl leaves, then a minute later a guy leaves the same bath- room. We were grossed out. As a word of advice to all students, don’t have sex in our bathrooms. [That said] we are fortu- nate to have the nicest customer base.
Anything else to add about your experience?
HSP: We’re cool as shit. Everyone knows Slow Train baristas are the sexi- est baristas.
LB: We have a reputation for being sexy and here’s my theory: it’s not actually true, but the cool factor makes people think we’re sexier than we are.
HSP: I think the cool factor is the bar. We have a space that gives us power over you. And everyone loves Slow Train.