Sitting at a wooden table in the shop on Minnetonka Boulevard and Highway 101, Steve London is at home.
“That man comes with his daughter often to read the paper,” he says, nodding to two customers who sit down in the armchairs next to the fireplace. “And that man over there is a lawyer. The other is a retired navy man– he’s talking to a retired baseball umpire. His daughter will be in soon. Scotty behind us is going to school and job hunting simultaneously.”
London has been the manager of the Minnetonka Caribou store for three years now, he has made more than a couple friends.
“I know you’re probably thinking, what’s an old guy like me doing being a store manager?” he asks with a smile.
He hasn’t always been here.
Before Caribou, London worked as a newspaper reporter, in human resources and in a communications department. When his position at one firm was eliminated, he went to work at Caribou- first in stores and then in retail communications.
But he likes working inside the coffe shops best.
“They’re more real,” London says. “We’re more of a community place than just a coffee shop or retail store.”
London is committed to that notion of belonging and wants the store he manages to be more than a business. He wants his customers to feel like they belong.
“People come here because they want to be a part of something. Even the drive-thru has a sense of community. We could be the first friendly face they see in their day, in the drive-thru window in the morning."
Working for the community is his foremost passion.
London’s Caribou store has been extensively involved with the Minnetonka School District, particularly with Groveland Elementary. Coffee is donated regularly at school events, and Caribou is the spot for book clubs to discuss how
“We just help them as much as possible,” he says sincerely.
In May, London was awarded a Spinnaker Award by the school district for his involvement and commitment to Minnetonka Public Schools. The award, named after the spinnaker of a sailboat, is given to individuals who exemplify volunteerism, recognizing generous contributions of time, talent and resources that volunteers, community members and business partners share with Minnetonka’s schools.
London himself is modest. He seems to consider community work just part of his job. He’s just doing his part in understanding the need to build bonds between local businesses and schools, he says.
“At the awards ceremony I watched them giving awards to these teachers, some of whom are my customers, and I was in awe of what they do for and with our kids,” London reflects. “So I was really honored by that, to be included with them.”
Outside of Caribou, London’s hobbies include biking the Dakota Rail and reading everything from murder mysteries to nonfiction aboutpolitics and public affairs. His latest read was a book on Bill Moyers; his next tackle will be a John Grisham.
As for his favorite drink, London skips the mochas and coolers, classifying his taste as simple. He prefers a shot of espresso, and in the summertime, he takes it iced with vanilla.
The espresso may be the reason he stays awake, but the customers are the reason he gets up each day.
“These people are people who read the newspaper, talk smart, solve the world’s problems,” he says. “This is their store as much as it is mine.”
London's contributions to the Minnetonka community, be it coffee for school functions or genuine care for customers, have been treasured by many.
We’ll raise our coffee mugs to that.