Alisa Morkides has not spent the past few years taking it easy. As coffee culture became increasingly sophisticated, so did Brew Haha!, the chain of Delaware coffee shops that she opened in the ‘90s and continues to steer to this day. Stores were remodeled, concepts were expanded, and one entirely new business, Brandywine Coffee Roasters, brought a new depth of flavor to the entire enterprise.
But when we caught up with Alisa inside the Brew HaHa! on Market, we found her in a reflective mood. This morning, she was taking it easy. So what, we asked, does “taking it easy” look like for her?
“It looks like spending more time with family and friends. It looks like taking Fridays off, if I can – I can't always. It looks like working four days a week instead of seven.”
“I actually turned 60 this year, and it started me in on thinking about what's really important and why. I never really thought about these 10-year birthdays – 20, 30, 40. We're getting older every day. But for some reason, 60 – now, we're entering into a next phase. And what do I do with that? I want more time to think about that. I love to travel, I love food, and I wanted to get healthy, so how do I do all that? And what's the next creative step for me?”
“We started out in 1993 in a tiny little space that was built on a shoestring, out of pocket, for $17,000. That's all we had. And ‘90s coffee shops were like that. People were forgiving. It didn't have to be high design. And I didn't know anything. I had never pulled a shot of espresso for a customer until the day we opened. And the culture elsewhere was definitely far ahead of where Wilmington was at that time. You could see what was happening in Seattle. But New York, though, I went to New York City and the coffee was terrible in 1992. Even actual, bona fide coffee shops were awful. So I saw what I thought was an opportunity. And of course, when I started it, some people said coffee was already played out. Done. So I guess it showed me that there's always opportunity. You can't predict it.”
“Let me tell you something about millennials and why I identify with them so much. Millennials love this idea of work-life balance. They're asking for something that Europeans have always had. More vacation. More time. Work smart, not hard. And as a boomer, I grew up in the world of work, work, work, and I think one of the reasons I didn't do that well is that I didn't get it. I didn't understand that way. I remember, when I was a financial analyst, and my boss came to me and said ‘We're closing the month so you've going to have to work the weekend.’ And I remember saying 'But I have a miniature dollhouse convention!' That must have sounded really great. I'm not surprised I didn't advance at that company.”
“Yes, sometimes we have to work the weekend. Things happen. I've had to work many weekends. I did what I had to. But not more than I had to. It's not a badge of honor. If you're working that many hours, something's not right.”
“I was 36 when we opened the first BrewHaHa.
It's been 25 years. And now I’m in a period where you start thinking about all those hopes and dreams you had, all those things you wanted to do someday. I would love to live in Paris for six months. I would love that. Now, I don’t know if I’m going to get six months. I have two businesses and a 15-year-old child. But that was one of my dreams. Writing a book was one of my dreams. Working less. Fewer hours and working better. Learning to meditate -- and not learning, but actually meditating. That would be a good thing. From small to large, I have dreams.”