Intermezzo Experience

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I spent a quiet evening at Intermezzo, probably one of the oldest and  well-known coffee shops of Atlanta.  When I first ventured there in ’98, it was unlike anything the metro Atlanta area had ever offered me.  At that time, I had never been out of the country, and this cafe was exactly what I imagined cafes across Europe should look like.  As an art major at a liberal arts school, I of course felt this was the place I should call mine.  Starbucks had yet to enter the area, and the local Caribou was were you got your big cup, chatted with your class mates that worked behind the counter, then parked yourself by the faux fireplace while delving into Max Weber.  Caribou offered me the option to wear my grungy liberal arts student persona, while Intermezzo gave me the chance to saunter around with my artsy friends and exude the aura of a future master. 

Nine years later, Starbucks abound at every corner, the local Caribou closed, and I had failed as an independant artist.  While living abroad I had visited many cafes, but Intermezzo still held a place in my coffee loving heart back in the ATL.  On my way there tonight, I passed two Starbucks, and yet I kept on going.  Was the coffee that much better?  It certainly wasn’t cheaper.  Well, yes Starbucks can’t beat the Ciocloccino and they certainly don’t have Ukrainian beers (not that they would really want to).  Starbucks has a nice modern interior, relaxing music (that I can buy right there, of course).  My seat at Intermezzo was stained and I could barely hear the music above the crowds and espresso machine.  However, this is what I love.  These imperfections and the chaotic energy deepen the colors on the walls and add a warm glow to the wood floors.  They invite me back time and again.

We’ve learned in Intro Design that these cafes aren’t selling coffee, they’re selling an experience.  And now I can greatly see this, just in my choice of how to spend the “big evening” (hey, money is short).  While my husband goes for the cakes, I want the old brick walls, variety of faces mingling about and the energy they bring past midnight.  There is something in their street sign that is warm and welcoming.  It’s not perfectly clean, yet I sense class.  I enjoy eavesdropping on surrounding conversations, from the drag queens visiting from New York, to the first date couple with the boring lady going on and on about her family’s health problems.  Gag – but joy in such diversity…and I smiled sympathetically to the man as I left – his table had been an embellishment to my experience.

Now Atlanta has a few other cafes that have blossomed in East Atlanta, L5, the Highlands, and whatever Octane land is called.  Buckhead is still a little bland, and now that Intermezzo has opened also at Perimeter, I feel it lost a little dignity.  However, I want the experience and will keep on coming…I’m a sucker for sugar cubes, alirght!

And if you recommend any other coffee shops, do tell me!

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Intermezzo Experience

  1. If you go to the ‘bucks, you can usually hear wild conversations between out-there-dude-A and anyone he can sucker into talking with him, or him simply talking to himself. I was suckered once. He told me that Anna Nicole Smith (I know Jess, may she rest in peace) was labeled a (well, Jess, perhaps you should just go to the next paragraph. It hasn’t been that long and this guy is ranting) slut on, I think, Fox News radio and he agreed with it. He even looked up the definition in the dictionary to make sure.

    Then there’s out-there-dude-B who sits at the opposite side of the cafe also preying on the folks that don’t know any better. “Hey… Hey… If you could be a dinosaur, what kind would you be?” Alrighty, sir. Anything else I can get for you?

    My point is, not only can you get a ‘cheap’ cup o’ jo (might I suggest Lightnote Blend, it’s amazing delicious and really, really wakes you up if you know what I mean), but you can also hear great music, eavesdrop on some fantastically odd conversations, and we can also hook you up with 5 different kinds of sugar (although none of them cubed- unless you want me to run a pack of regular sugar under some water so it all sticks together. Then we’d be one up on the competition and offer not cubed sugar, but sugar planes. Wow… this is what 2am is good for).

  2. AK

    You’ve been talking to John Hartwell, haven’t you?

    I’ve never been to Intermezzo, even though it’s right across the street from me. Is it really worth the 2 minute walk?

  3. you bring up an interesting point about experience, how experience relates to products and brands — and how experience is sometimes more important than the physical product. For example until Starbucks, coffee was a commodity to most Americans. It was cheep, common, and something you could buy anywhere, and everywhere was offering free refills.

    Even the stan on the chair adds to the experience. The stain and the imperfections tell a story. They act as a souvenir of past patrons. These imperfections give us a sense of comfort in our humanness.

    Yet, as we move into the digital world we loose these souvenirs. I can’t accidentally spill coffee on your blog. The page won’t collect dust, or fade in the sunlight. It is forever perfect. No one will know I have been here except to read my comment.

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