“Friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself…’” – CS Lewis
Today Olivia and I wanted to share with you the stories of how we met. It is truly remarkable when people from two drastically different worlds come together and are able to bond over similar passions. The way that we became friends is somewhat bizarre and rather amusing, but we think that it is a wonderful example of the importance of taking the time to get to know people. You never know who you’ll meet.
Los Angeles and Rockport are two remarkably different places. I grew up in the entertainment capital of the world—doing homework on TV show sets, brushing shoulders with actors and actresses on red carpets, and spending my Saturday mornings perusing the local farmer’s market for organic produce. My mom is from Rockport, Massachusetts, a quaint New England fishing town of around 6,000, home to characters right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Despite my fondness for the fast-paced LA lifestyle, I always enjoyed our summer vacations in Rockport. A morning tradition was homemade chocolate croissants for breakfast at the local coffee shop with my family. Long, lazy afternoons were spent at the beach building sandcastles, looking for crabs, and working up the courage to plunge into the frigid Atlantic Ocean. Our days wrapped up with balmy evening walks downtown for our nightly ice cream cone.
The contrast between Los Angeles and Rockport could not be starker. LA is spread out, crowded, noisy, and chaotic. Rockport is quiet, calm and easy-going. Yes, I was blessed to have grown up in the exhilarating “City of Angels,” where diversity and opportunity surrounded me. But every year come late August when my parents and I returned from our annual summer vacation, I would beg my parents to move to Rockport.
But as I grew, so did my love for LA. I began to appreciate the city’s diversity—the culture, the people, the food. My love for Rockport never faded, and I continued to enjoy my family’s week-long break from the hectic Hollywood life where I would trade in blowouts and high heels for salty hair and sandy toes.
Going into my senior year of college, I had my Rockport routine down to a science. I would roll out of bed in the morning, slip into my running gear and sneakers, and head out for a quiet run along the ocean. My dad was usually coming back from his long Oceanside run as I departed. He had been running for nearly 40 years and had been my inspiration. My route was planned perfectly so that I would end my runs outside of our favorite coffee shop, the Bean and Leaf Café, where my mom would meet me with iced teas for our morning walk through town. After our walks, we’d head to the beach with the rest of the family, before returning back to the Bean and Leaf for our afternoon fix.
My mom is a remarkably outgoing and friendly person. When she told us one night over a lobster cookout that she had met “a very nice girl whom I should meet” at the Bean and Leaf, I was neither surprised nor particularly interested. My mother had set me up with the local Rockport youth since I was five, and though I had a few close friends in the tiny seaside village, most attempts had been awkward and uncomfortable for both parties involved. I made a mental note, however, to say hi to the said “very nice girl” when I returned for iced tea the next day, but was not planning on becoming besties, as my mom seemed to be hoping. My mom insisted that this barista was “one of the sweetest girls she’d ever met” and was “passionate about health and nutrition” and would “make a great friend.” I took it all with a grain of salt, but secretly looked forward to meeting her. We seemed to have similar passions.
The next day I went to the Bean and Leaf Café, hot and sweaty after my morning run. There I met Olivia, who was petite and lanky and wore a black shirt covered in flour. As Olivia poured our iced teas, my mom chatted away about how I loved fitness and Olivia loved nutrition and she suggested we add each other on Facebook. She probably would have made some other embarrassing proposition had I not cut her off to begin chatting with Olivia myself. But, I’ll have to give it to Mama Marks. She was totally right.
Olivia and I instantly hit it off. We exchanged health and fitness tips. I told her about the half marathons I had run and she told me about the recipes she had created. We talked about how different the foods were in New England and California. And discussed how strange it was that Rockport didn’t have a gym.
Olivia and I enjoyed our daily chats in the Bean and Leaf, but the time eventually came for me to return to LA for my senior year of college. The year was filled with exams, parties, and anxiety about what the real world would be like. I was so caught up in the hustle and bustle of senior festivities and ultimately graduation that I had all but forgotten about our favorite barista until my mom pulled me aside one day with some unexpected, but exciting news.
“Dempsey, do you remember Olivia? The sweet girl who works at the Bean and Leaf. Well she’s going to come out here this summer to intern for us at NBC. She doesn’t know anyone out here, so you’ll be her friend right?”
I could only laugh. This news was not strange nor surprising to me or my dad. My mom is the only person in the world who would hire someone based on their coffee pouring skills. She had a remarkable knack for correctly judging people’s character and a generosity that I had come to admire and respect. Of course I would happily be Olivia’s friend and I soon found myself counting the days until the friendly Rockport barista moved west.
Over the past few years, my summers have never panned out as the free spirited, flip flop beach days we all imagine summer to be. I have had to work 50 hour work-weeks doing a variety of service jobs such as ice cream scooping, waitressing, and acting as your friendly barista in order to put myself through college. But those summer days gave me the opportunity to get to know some amazing coworkers, work with my siblings, and meet a unique variety of customers.
The summer before my senior year of college, I was the assistant manager at a local coffee shop in Rockport, Massachusetts called the Bean and Leaf Cafe. I would get to work at 6a m to start baking and then spend the day pouring coffee for a mixture of tourists and regulars. I would close the shop around 9pm. Over that summer, I was able to prepare almost every local customers order by heart. I could also tell you their occupation, their daughter’s boyfriend’s name and what year they graduated high school. I got through that summer by connecting with the people I saw come in and out of the coffee shop. One woman in particular stood out to me. She would come in multiple times a day and get two ginger peach ice teas and one or two raspberry filled short bread cookies. I would prepare her order as soon as I saw her so that she could bypass the enormous line that stretched out the door. We would joke about the zany Rockport locals, and she would always insist I meet her daughter whom she felt I would instantly become friends with. We both were health nuts, fitness junkies, and were quirky and fun loving. She even gave me her daughter’s phone number and Facebook address, but feeling a little bashful I refrained from reaching out. As the summer progressed we were eventually introduced and as expected hit it off. As soon as Dempsey Marks and I met, we bonded over our first smoothie swap. She would come in and visit while I was covered in spilled espresso and cocoa powder, and we would joke around and compare college experiences. I would do my best to give her and her mom the freshest cookies and fresh brewed iced tea. In turn they would always put a few extra dollars in my tip cup and promised to help if I ever needed anything. Dempsey was serendipitously brought into my life.
The summer ended as all summers do and the Marks’ went back to California and I went back to finish my senior year of college in Boston. I spent the next year working, keeping up my grades, taking the GRE, and applying to graduate school. I decided to apply to only one graduate school, which was one of the best in the country for nutrition. Word to the wise: never put all of your eggs in one basket. April rolled around and so did my rejection letter. Frustrated and defeated, I decided to look into possible plans for my forced year off. I decided to take up Rebecca on her offer “to help”. I was unsure of the sincerity of her offer. To my excitement, my call was answered. I discovered it wasn’t a hollow offer and she invited me to come work in California. I did not know much about her family besides what little information surfaced over the summer but my gut told me it was the right move. With my bags packed I headed across the country to experience one of the most amazing summers of my life and to create a life-long friendship that turned us into business partners.
Thank you Marks Family, for everything.