What makes the best coffee shops? Is it the coffee? Is it the staff? Is it the ambiance? Is it he snacks or food that are available?
Well, of course it's all of the above.
From a cyclist's perspective, it also means you're welcome with your cleated shoes on and there is a secure place to park your bike where you don't have to be paranoid that it will be gone when you're done the cappuccino. I was in a local coffee shop the other day, one of my favorites (Leva / www.cafeleva.com), and a cyclist came in to get a coffee and head out to the patio. The entire time, while the dude was at the counter, he was facing outside to see if anyone was going to steal his Trek. He may have been overly worried, but also, the bike looked pretty new and he may have still been in the "new baby" phase.
Leva is a great cafe because it has great ambiance, great staff, a margherita pizza that is incredible, and the cappuccino is perfect. The cafe itself looks great outside and in. There is a huge patio that accommodates lots of coffee lovers and the whole cafe can open up for an indoor / outdoor experience. Which unfortunately, usually only lasts a couple of months in Edmonton. The patrons range from 2 yrs to 82 yrs, cyclists, students, professors and anyone else. They also have a fantastic selection of beers if you're into that kind of thing ... which I am.
Another of my favorites is the Wild Earth Cafe (www.wildearthbakery.com) in Laurier Heights in Edmonton. A small, comfortable spot that is easy to access and it has one of the coolest benches you will ever see located right inside the door. It is really more of a bakery than a coffee shop per se, but the staff is always friendly, the coffee is excellent, and they have never yelled at me about my shoes.
I think my favorite non-Edmonton cafe has to be the Denver Bicycle Cafe (denverbicyclecafe.com). It seems to encompass all of the things that a cyclist wants. It has bikes, coffee, and beer. It has a beautiful interior. They sell custom bikes, not off the rack pre-assembled cookie cutters like every other bike shop does (which is fine, someone has to). They have a true passion for what they are doing.
The small business in general is not doing well. Everyone is supporting the Starbucks, Costcos, Walmarts, etc instead of looking for something unique and individual or paying a little more and supporting the little guy. The power of branding is amazing ... I am guilty of getting my Starbucks too, but if there is a small business option available, I'd take that anytime. And the reason? Not only does the money usually stay local, along with the jobs, but the passion of the owner usually shines through. And that's what makes a great coffee shop. The passion shown by your barista for coffee, the baker who made the sweet treats, or the owner's love of being an independent business owner and having control of quality and customer service. Next time you need bike stuff, go to your LBS. Check the price online to make sure you aren't getting totally screwed, but they will usually come close to the price anyways (when you factor in shipping, duties, etc). It's good for the local business (they need the support) and its good for you (expert advice, immediate delivery).
Someone once asked me: "why do you want to open a bicycle cafe, you're just buying yourself a job? You'll never get rich!" I realized I have a passion for a few things: bicycles, coffee, enjoying "my job" everyday, and getting to decide how I can give great customer service and meet interesting people. Money is just a means to doing interesting things in life. I know more than a few people who make loads of money, and they are neither happy nor doing anything interesting. They spend more on bikes than I can, but they don't have time to ride them. We only have so many hours in our life (about 700,000 for most of us), so make sure you do what you want to do.
So don't be too surprised if one day you see a "Two Wheels & Caffeine" on the corner. Come in. Don't expect a bike snob (or act like one yourself). Expect a passionate bike guy who can talk about bikes all day or make you a great mochaccino. I also appreciate a fine beer - there is no reason to exclude the finer things in life! I may go off on a tangent about big mountain skiing or fly fishing. The TV may be showing a bike race, a classic movie, or even SYTYCD. You never know. I plan on building custom bikes of ALL price ranges, not just the ones for my rich friends. I promise great coffee and beer that should be savoured.
Now, I just have to convince my wife that I am allowed to change jobs ...