An Ode to Coppaccino

Published by Qmunicate

Qmunicate's sensitive columnist struggles with the loss of his place of work.

Readers, I am grieving – Coppaccino has closed down. If not a business familiar by name, it is surely one familiar by sight; the trio of police boxes – one on Buchanan Street, one near Kelvinhall and one outside the Botanic Gardens – which were converted into booths used for selling coffee? Yes, they’re gone – and only their rusty, graffiti-laden corpses of metal remain.

For six years they stood a bold 9ft tall and 4ft wide, but high above any of their rival cafés in the west end or the city centre. Its employees sat in the box and operated a hissing, spluttering machine which churned out a variety of £1.30 coffees and 80p teas, with a range of cold drinks and snacks hiding underneath in a small fridge. Its architect Gavin Wright served his last caramel latte in September, when he turned out the light and locked its door in pursuit of another business.

Coppaccino was my first job in Glasgow. Needing to make ends meet as a lazy first year student staying in Winton Drive, I’d dropped off my CV at the Coppaccino outside the Botanics – simply because it was the closest possible place of employment. Gavin called me a few nights later and arranged me an interview. It took the form of me standing outside the box, while a girl sat inside grilled me on my customer service experience. After a short trial shift that same day, I got the job. “Any advice?” I asked the girl, who was resuming her shift. “You’d probably better bring something to read,” she replied.

She was right. On rainy days outside the Botanic Gardens, I’d serve perhaps six people in as many hours. Over the next few weeks, I did all my exam revision and essay plans in the box. I even wrote some poetry and started a novel. The only problem was that the rain often blew in, and in such a case a mangled umbrella was provided to hang from one of the door hinges. There was also a small heater and a radio by my feet, and we were allowed hot drinks from the machine so long as we noted it an old 1980s till. At the end of the shift I’d just clean up and wait for Gavin – the man with they keys – to come and lock up.

Coppaccino was unofficially The Smallest Workplace In The World, but Gavin could never get it recognised by Guinness Records. As more people filled the streets when Glasgow got dryer, working within such an enclosed space prompted every second customer to ask: “Do you get claustrophobic in there?” to which I tried to reply differently every time. The customers themselves were a mixed bunch; loyal regulars, curious passers-by – occasionally bemused strangers would just stop and stare for uncomfortable stretches of time.

Ultimately, that’s why working in Coppaccino was the best job I’ve ever had. It was the perfect place for people-watching. On any given day I would serve bleary-eyed students still high from clubbing, wealthy businessmen rushing off to conferences, Big Issue sellers exhausted from selling all day on the streets, junkies demanding sachets of sugar, inter-railers urging me to pose for photographs, Polish workers needing directions, opportunist Jehovah’s witnesses making the most of my inability to escape...

The fantastic contrast of Glasgow was painted on a giant canvas right in front of me every time I stepped inside. I don’t feel like I’ve lost a café; I’ve lost a window – however narrow and rusty – to this city.