A huge grin spreads across Brandi Catoire’s face as she sets the platter of birthday beignets in front of the elderly gentleman. It’s the man’s 101st birthday, and Catoire is treating him with the same love and care she would show her own grandfather.
For Catoire, it’s just another day at Coffee Call.
Catoire, a Coffee Call manager and the granddaughter of founder Vincent Cannatella, Sr., said family and love for customers is at the heart of the business. For 40 years, the café’s welcoming environment has made it a Baton Rouge staple and drawn generations of devoted patrons.
Catoire said the café’s relationship with its customers stems from her grandfather, who has always been devoted to welcoming his customers with open arms and ensuring their comfort once they entered the café. He instilled the same devotion in Catoire and her uncle, current owner John Cannatella, and this level of care influences the café’s every action, she said.
The Cannatella family’s sincerity and generous spirit has left a lasting impression on many.
For the café’s 40th anniversary celebration May 18, Catoire said patrons lined up throughout the day to purchase their Coffee Call beignets and reminisce. At her daughter’s honor roll ceremony that same day, Catoire said a classmate’s father approached her to share a Coffee Call memory.
The man, now in his 40s, said he stood in line for over an hour and a half that morning to purchase his beignets. Cannatella had sponsored his Little League team, and he wanted to celebrate his memories of post-game beignets and chocolate milk at the place that left such a big impression on his childhood, she said.
It’s memories like these on which the business is built.
For Catoire, the human relationships are the most fulfilling aspect of the business. She has watched children grow into young adults, celebrated customers’ birthdays and anniversaries and been alongside customers during their most difficult losses.
It’s these relationships that make the long hours worth it, she said.
“It’s nothing that you can even express, the reward that you get from being proud of something that’s a part of you, that’s a part of your life,”
That same pride and joy is why Michelle Miles has worked at Coffee Call for 35 years.
Miles’ Coffee Call journey began by chance. As a 17-year-old senior at Capitol High School, Miles was visiting a friend at the café when another employee didn’t come to work. Miles stepped in, and she’s been there ever since, she said.
Miles is almost as closely associated with the café as the Cannatella family members themselves. Miles’ locker is filled with artwork from the children who’ve frequented the café over the years, and when a regular customer doesn’t make it in, Miles gives them a call using her Coffee Call phonebook, she said.
Miles wouldn’t have it any other way, she said. People often remark that she always wears a smile, and Miles said it comes from joy in her work and the love she’s given and received as a member of the Coffee Call family.
That love has been a blessing throughout Miles’ life, she said.
In 2001, her husband had to have his fingers amputated. In 2007, he suffered from kidney failure. Both times, Miles was told to take the time she needed to care for her family and her job would be waiting for her when she returned. Most employers aren’t like that, she said.
Even with such loving employers, people are often surprised Miles has remained at the café for so long. It’s not that she hasn’t had other opportunities, she said.
Miles said some years ago she had the opportunity to take over her mother’s thrift shop, Surprise. The business was well established and all Miles had to do was agree to have ownership transferred into her name, but she wasn’t ready to leave Coffee Call, she said.
“It’s not always about the money,” Miles said. “It’s about what you love doing and what you feel that you fit in with. It’s just like with a relationship. When you find a good one, you stick with it.”
Photo by Greta Jines.