Check out our 6-month update Below
ANMLY was born with two goals in mind: “to create something others enjoy,” and “to learn and grow in an experimental atmosphere.” Quite simple in theory, quite a challenging undertaking in practice. Six months into our journey, we can recognize that we have begun to bring this goal to life. We are humbled by, and grateful for our base of devoted regulars, our 5-star reviews, and the positive feedback we have received by the community. We have learned how to open a business, build a team, create unique and amazing food efficiently and effectively in a limited space, and offer a fresh, lively style of service in the cafe setting. We’ve learned to proactively problem solve, to bounce back, to deal with broken dishwashers, clogged drains, unreliable vendors, robberies, unhappy guests, flooding espresso machines, and put out the constant fires that the restaurant industry faces. We have made countless mistakes, and poor decisions, but we have become adaptable and proactive. Taking on a unique and experimental approach, we of course cannot please everyone. If we held that mentality, we would succumb to a loss in quality and intention. Our presence in Bellingham is slowly growing, and we have seen exciting glimpses of our potential as a business. To create the full vision and atmosphere we strive for, we must continue to learn and to find new ways to increase our quality, efficiency, and ultimately our sales without compromising our values. We are relatively young, we are extremely ambitious, and we are not afraid to take risks, to challenge ourselves, to deviate from the expected - this is the backbone of ANMLY as a cafe, a business, and a member of the community.
Alas we are struggling to find our rhythm. We have been facing a few internal dilemmas. The first is that when you look deeper into the environmentally progressive systems we have put in place, they are potentially less beneficial than they are intended to be. This country’s recycling system is extremely flawed, if not completely broken. It becomes less cost effective to source raw materials in minimal packaging, and reusables are truly only valuable if they are put to use numerous times before they can outweigh the resources they take to produce. When our jars are not reused, we take a financial hit, when customers are not willing to pay a deposit, we lose sales, when we opt to not carry 20oz white chocolate soy frappuccinos in a plastic cup because we value the quality and nutritional content of our product, we lose customers. It takes more labor to wash jars and to fold linens, it uses more space, there is more needed upfront capital to bring on reusables, it complicates the accounting side of things, and it becomes more complicated to brand. Intentionally crafting menus with smart shelf lives, and solely making food to order limits our quick-serve customers, and requires more labor. Sourcing used FFE and merchandise requires hands-on devotion to repurposing, maintenance, and becomes labor intensive and extremely time consuming. Still, we are willing to put forth these efforts, and to take the short term loss if and only if our actions truly have a positive impact. If the transaction over the counter starts at getting a coffee in a jar to go, and ends in the garbage can 10 minutes later, then it’s a loss for everyone involved. We have to ask ourselves, is what we are doing, and the sacrifices we are making really worth it?
Taking an experimental approach gives us the opportunity to make changes, to try new techniques, to not be afraid to let go of failures, and to be proactive in finding better solutions. We take this position in order to find scalable solutions that can be applied to other businesses. After six months of trials, errors, and successes, we unfortunately are not super stoked on the direction of a scalable system in this town. The major issue we see is that simply promoting environmental values has become an acceptable excuse, and an extremely brandable front. As consumers we are not willing to sacrifice our convenience as long as we internally feel good about using a compostable box, or recycling our coffee cup regardless of the fact that it is not a sustainable practice. In a town where environmentalism is so profoundly important, are we simply uneducated, or do we really just not care as much as we promote we do? Our genuinity in operating environmentally friendly seems to become less and less sustainable everyday.
Looking at ourselves in the mirror, we have to determine whether we want to lead or follow. We could limit our costs, expand our revenue streams, give customers exactly what they are accustomed to, and lose sight of our values. This would be the smart business move, and the one that our lofty entrepreneurial goals are tempted by. Or we can remain an experiment, push the boundaries, continue to make sacrifices, and keep on looking for solutions but take the risk.
Establishing ourselves in the community, especially in the tucked away location we hold is no easy feat. Bellingham has a funny way of holding on, and being shy to take on something new. We are proud to be the anomaly, and we will continue to work towards our goals, create delicious food and vibes that others enjoy, and be ever growing. Thank you for the support over the past six months and the future to come. As always, we rely on honest feedback, and involvement to better ourselves and our offerings - please do not hesitate to reach out!