My architect for Stonefruit is my boyfriend. I swear I fell in love with him before we ever started talking about working together. But I can’t deny how lucky I am. Not only is he doing a ton of work for Stonefruit pro bono, but I get to bend his ear about design and functionality at any time of day. Since signing that lease, I often fall asleep working through details of design, aesthetic, or operation. And my first words after ‘Good morning’ are often related to this huge project that has sat itself down right in the middle of our lives.
When my lease negotiations were heating up for the first space I was looking at, I started a conversation with Alberto. Did he think working together to create Stonefruit would cause challenges in our relationship that we couldn’t handle? The first few months of planning and construction would require a lot of extra work for him (A LOT), and be very high-priority, and emotionally charged, for me. But our relationship was my highest priority. If we thought the project could introduce too much tension, I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to risk what we had going. And Alberto was completely unfazed. He acknowledged how much extra work and worry Stonefruit would bring him, but he felt absolutely zero worry for the health of our relationship. What he really wanted was to help me bring my dreams, hopes, and plans to life.
I know, he’s amazing. He’ll call anybody in the industry for me, spend hours driving through snow in a SmartCar to visit warehouses full of used equipment and lumber, brainstorm nonstop, visit the space on a Saturday evening, spend 40 minutes arguing for and/or against different counter-width measurements in Ikea with me, oh, and he saved the day already (at least once): when I couldn’t negotiate my monthly rent as low as I wanted, I felt like I had to throw in the towel on this space. After a morning of facing my finances, I called Alberto to super sadly admit defeat, and he was all ‘Babe, I’ve been thinking…’ You see my space is oddly shaped, and you can easily divide it in two. He suggested we open the front half as our ‘bare-bones’ cafe, make some money, and either expand into the back half if business is good, or sublet the back half to a complimentary business after we’re open and they can see the potential of the space. It allows us a lot of flexibility with how we want this space to evolve, and saves me the cost of furnishing half the space up-front.
One challenge is that Alberto and I don’t always see eye-to-eye on design, and he tends to get excited about an idea and run with it, whether or not I’m on board. I wanted the space to be pretty simple, but he wants to make it simple and interesting. Ultimately, he’s amazing about listening to me. At the end of the day, he will always do what I ask. But he consistently feels like I just can’t envision the idea like he can, as a practiced architect, so he’ll go through the effort of drafting these beautiful renderings to literally write it out for me. And then sometimes I’m still not on board, but I feel bad because he went through all the effort! I get really anxious looking at new drawings because I’m so worried we’re not going to be on the same page and I really don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I still want to feel great about our plan. So far we’re making it work.
And I can say, with frank honesty and humility, I could not be starting my own cafe right now without the support and help of Alberto.
And he offers the cutest metaphors: ‘Babe, your coffee bar is like a salami, you can cut it off wherever you want.’
P.S. I have Seinfeld to thank for this: I can’t help but feel a thrill when people ask what Alberto does for a living.