Meet Café Manager Sazi Shields
"Coffee shops are such a positive environment. It's warm drinks, it's comfort food. It's caffeine. It's giving people energy. It's giving kids chocolate chip cookies. There's nothing to dislike about a coffee shop!"
Mitch Teplitsky finally caught up with the always-in-motion Sazi Shields for this interview. Over coffee, of course.
Everyone love cafés, but I bet lots of us don't think much about all the work it takes to manage one! What's your job?
I oversee scheduling, ordering, inventory, hiring and training for the café, and work barista shifts as needed. I track trends and seasonal events to create drink specials, and maintain quality assurance and product consistency. I advise on cafe-related marketing and social media posts, and will be booking musicians for our upcoming live music Sundays.
Whew, no wonder you're always in motion! How did you learn all that? What was life before Morgenstern's?
I've always had a passion for food service. I managed several other restaurants in Bloomington before this. My first-ever job was working for the Scholars Inn Bakehouse as a teenager. About a decade ago, I worked as a barista at Barnes & Noble, with (Morgenstern booksellers) Helmut and Lindsay, so that's been a great reunion.
I learned early on that I adore food service. It's fun, it's fast-paced, it's very public. I'm an extrovert — I love asking 200 people a day "how's your day going, what can I do for you?"
What are some of the new things you're planning?
We'll be expanding the menu a bit to include more savory options, especially since our soups have been so popular. We're doing more seasonal drinks. Hersha and Liam (Senior Baristas) are always coming to me with great ideas, which I adore. And as soon as COVID allows, we're looking at getting more local music.
How have people's tastes changed since you first started?
The biggest thing, and it's not something I anticipated, are the non-dairy milks. When I was at Barnes & Noble, they didn't have oat milk and dairy milk — that wasn't a thing then. And — not that anyone who doesn't work in a café would need to know this — non-dairy milks are prepared differently. They have different textures and different fat content, and interact differently with cold and hot drinks. So that's been challenging and fun.
What's your favorite go-to snack and beverage at the café?
I adore the almond croissants from Scholars. I really like our asiago bagels. And I love our Betty White drink — a rose-flavored white mocha is exactly what I want from a coffee drink.
You grew up in Bloomington, and your parents are still here. Have they visited the store?
Yes! Both my parents were very impressed. Especially my Dad, Andy Hollinden. He teaches the history of Rock and Roll at IU. He loves browsing through the music section.
Don't tell me, you're a musician too?
Yes. Right now the project I'm working on is kind of a '90s grungy rock kind of vibe. When left to my own devices, my piano music is more like Elton John. I recently got a Beach Boys book I'm super excited about. But generally, it's traditional rock bands for me. I've done prog metal, and shoegaze, and --
Shoegaze? What's that?
It's a type of atmospheric, doom rock. Very wall of sound, layering of tones.
Wow, I'm so out of touch. At least I heard of Elton John and the Beach Boys. Anything else you're up to, outside the café?
I'm taking my yoga instructor certification, at Ekah Yoga. I took my first yoga classes back in 2014, and have had a personal practice ever since. I have a lot of interests!
Anything else you'd like to say about the café?
Our café is such a great space. The atmosphere is fantastic. We're blessed to have a very well-trained staff, who the customers recognize and enjoy seeing every day. It's a joy to be here!
Next time you're in the store, say hi to Sazi — they want to know how your day is going! They are also always on the lookout for new vendors and items, and musicians to book for our forthcoming live music Sundays.