Remembering a forever young barista

Christina Ryan Claypool - Contributing Columnist

Miami County residents are more privileged than many communities when it comes to inviting coffee shops. There are too many outstanding individual coffeehouses to mention, but Winans, Boston Stoker, Tim Hortons, Panera Bread, and Starbucks are among the chains here.

As for Winans, fourth generation owners, Joe and Laurie Winans Reiser, bought the business from Laurie’s father, Max Winans, in 1993 according to their website at Joe added coffee to the candy product line in 1994, and updated the name to, “Winans Chocolates and Coffees.” Today, the company has quite a few locations in Piqua, Troy, and beyond, roasting their own coffee beans in their downtown Piqua factory.

“It will never work,” Max is reported as saying about the coffee line. Apparently, he didn’t realize that coffee is an integral part of daily life. According to, a report from Acorns Money Matters records that “the average American spends approximately $1,100 a year— or $3 each day— on coffee.”

Best-selling author, Dr. Leonard Sweet, believes that atmosphere has a lot to do with the profitability of a coffee shop. In his book, The Gospel according to Starbucks, Sweet writes, “Starbucks built an assumption-shattering business by selling an irresistible experience along with every cup of coffee.”

“In 2017, there were 13,930 Starbucks stores in the U.S.,” reports “The total number of Starbucks stores worldwide has almost doubled in the decade between 2007 and 2017.”

Sweet attributes the décor, “appealing music,” and a “melody of complex coffee smells” as contributing to the Starbucks “sensory feast.” Although this is part of the pleasure we find in most coffeehouses both independents and chains.

There’s something else that we’re purchasing, Dr. Sweet writes, “…coffee is a hospitality drink, a sign of welcome and openness to sharing.” It can be invigorating to sit in a coffee shop with a friend and connect in meaningful conversation. Of course, often we’re in a real rush and want our coffee in a hurry.

On other occasions, we visit a coffee shop, because we not only want something to drink, but the sensation we are of some significance in this normally impersonal world. A great barista can make a customer feel noticed and appreciated, even though technically their job is simply to politely prepare a tasty beverage.

And that’s how I met Kaitlin. Some years back, while grocery shopping, I decided to grab a coffee at the Starbucks kiosk store, after my husband and I had transplanted to a new area. Feeling a little lonely and displaced in the way moving has of doing, I was pleasantly taken off-guard by the brunette barista’s thoughtfulness.

While still efficiently getting her work done, the young woman acted like she had all the time in the world. That I was the most important customer of her day, even though I was an older woman having trouble deciding what I wanted. Maybe because I never had a daughter, I felt privileged that Kaitlin smiled and seemed genuinely happy to see me whenever I showed up at her counter.

She and I would chat a few minutes, while she prepared my drink, if she wasn’t busy. I never knew her last name, or much about her personal life, but I was grateful for our friendly connection during my time of transition. Somehow, she also made me feel connected to my then new community. It was her gift, as I’m sure she made countless other customers feel special, too. Then I lost track of her.

Two years ago this December, I saw Kaitlin’s winning smile again. Tragically, this time it was in an obituary photo in the newspaper. I learned that this vibrant young lady with so much potential, didn’t have all the time in the world. At only 24, she had lost a battle to cancer. I was deeply saddened by the monumental loss of such a gentle soul for all her loved ones.

For me, there had been no chance to say, “Good-bye,” or to express my appreciation. So, Kaitlin, this long overdue column is for you. It’s also for every barista who tries each day to do more than their job, just like you did.

Forever young barista, your life truly made a difference, and your kindness will always be remembered. Thanks for taking time to brighten the world, if only for a short while!

Christina Ryan Claypool

Contributing Columnist

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at