Case Study - Changing Your Culture

by Cara Gardner

Doma Caf & eacute; is one of Coeur d'Alene's newest businesses. Like all new business owners, the couple who own Doma Coffee, Terry Patano and Rebecca Hurlen Patano, are working extra hard to make sure it's a success. In fact, coupled with their wholesale coffee roasting business, Doma Coffee, they each work close to 60 hours a week. But unlike most people working overtime, Terry and Rebecca are relaxed and at ease. They spend most of their day with their two sons: Dominic, 7, and Marco, 5. When they're not making award-winning espresso or roasting beans, employees of Doma can be found jumping on the large trampoline outside the roasting house or scaling the climbing wall their employers put up for them. For Terry and Rebecca, their work is their life: There's no separation.

"We feel like a combo of the Flintstones and the Jetsons," Terry jokes over the phone as we plan a time for me to visit their caf & eacute;. "We're slowing down, but we're still very revolutionary."

Sitting inside the spanking new caf & eacute;, Rebecca and Terry try to explain why they want to raise their sons to focus on enjoying life more than working too hard to attain some illusory notion of "success."

"Our choices have been to not buy into the American Dream," says Rebecca, offering up a fresh espresso and treats inside Doma Caf & eacute;. "We try to walk lightly on this planet." Her husband nods in agreement. "Both of us surround ourselves with similar-thinking people," he says. "I don't even know what it feels like to be caught up in the [rat race.]"

Terry, who is from Kellogg, Idaho, and Rebecca, who grew up in the Seattle area, moved to Coeur d'Alene four years ago. Before they had children, the couple says they were both working full time as professional ski bums.

"We really want the same thing for our kids," Terry deadpans. "They want to be scientists or something, and we keep saying, 'No! Be ski bums!'"

Rebecca laughs. "I've always been surprised at the amount of people in our society who buy into the concept of what a corporation will 'do' for them," she says. "I'm not against 'The Man,' but I've always been an independent worker. Neither one of us has bought into the mainstream."

"Buying into" the mainstream is exactly how it works, too. The Patanos know the cost of giving up time for money.

"It's so not about the money," Terry says, shaking his head. "If it was, we wouldn't be doing this."

"I think [living simply] happens in small ways, in the personal choices you make," Rebecca explains. "It's not about having lots of things, because where's the happiness in that? Is it in a cookie or a latte or a cool product? You'll find it's never outside of you."

Though their beliefs line up with those offered by grassroots movements like Voluntary Simplicity and Take Back Your Time, the couple say they aren't influenced by organized movements. "It's just the way we are, the way we've always been," Terry says. But both Terry and Rebecca do have strong opinions about how our culture's speed is affecting the earth, and how it's changing the way people interact with one another.

"We've tried to build as green a house as possible using recycled materials," says Terry. In addition, the couple researches the companies they purchase from and make sure they do business with organizations that operate with similar values. In that way, they are activists. Terry and Rebecca's activism, though, is an example of how living simply isn't about sacrifice, but abundance. It's not a puritanical method of denying themselves things -- it's more about realizing investing time rather than money often yields bigger rewards.

Part of the mission of Doma Coffee is to bring traditional caf & eacute; culture back to the forefront of life.

"In America there is a drive-thru mentality," Rebecca says, citing the overwhelming number of people who prefer to get their coffees from inside their cars as they rush to work. In fact, Americans do many things from their car; we bank, eat, shop, grab medications from the pharmacy -- all as we race to and from our obligations.

"There is this fear that everyone has," Rebecca muses, referring to why people are less enthusiastic about getting out of their cars and standing next to strangers, interacting with other people. "It's a boundary issue; the car keeps you in."

Terry and Rebecca not only make sure their time is spent doing what they love with whom they love, they want to provide a space for others to feel comfortable doing the same.

"I don't want to preach to others," says Terry. "And I don't want people to preach to me. So, you do what you can in your own backyard."

Despite the couple's attitudes about simplicity and leisure, both say it's hard to live in a culture bombarded with frenzied, consumer messages.

"The balance is a constant daily struggle," Rebecca concedes. "Our society is driven by ads and what we have to buy. There is just no way I'm going to be this sexy thing they keep shoving in my face, no matter how many products I purchase."

On the flip side, Terry says sometimes getting away from it is as simple as turning off the TV. One of the reasons TV is such a popular pastime, experts say, is because after long workdays, it's the only thing many people have the energy for. It feeds into a system based on work-and-spend cycles.

"There are a lot of people who aren't questioning [those messages]," Terry comments. "I'd say all people should read things outside what they normally read."

Terry and Rebecca are card-carrying members of the caf & eacute; culture, where it's all about honing those conversational skills and seeing the community around you. Likewise, whereas some employers would be furious to find their workers idly chatting or socializing on the job, Terry and Rebecca encourage it.

"We have one girl who just got back from spending a year in France," says Rebecca. "She was here the other night and a Frenchman came in, I think maybe from Ironman or something. She sat right down with him and they seemed to be having the most intense discussion, and I thought to myself, 'This is what it's all about.'"

Publication date: 07/01/04

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