Gov. John Carney has come into Brew HaHa! for a cup of joe, a security detail behind him. A few customers do a double-take, smile in recognition, wave. One politely whispers hello, a bit star-struck.
Before Carney reaches the counter, a voice booms from behind the espresso machine. “Hey! How was your trip? Did you go to Café du Monde? What did you think?!”
“I think your coffee is better,” Carney jokes.
“Oh, John,” the barista exclaims. “Whatta guy!”
That barista is Lydia Farrell—cafe manager of Brew HaHa!’s Market Street and Delaware Avenue locations—whose enthusiasm endears her to customers and co-workers alike.
“She’s in the outer atmosphere of friendliness,” says co-worker Adam Rahn.
On any given day—between steaming cappuccinos, ringing up iced lattes and mentoring team members—Farrell might be found bopping along to the music overhead, offering strangely intuitive menu suggestions (“I never give out a recommendation I wouldn’t try for myself”) or inquiring about the details of a patron’s wedding planning.
“How are you doing, my dear?” she asks one customer. “Treat yourself,” she instructs another. “Don’t work too hard,” she shouts to a third as he heads to the office.
“She’s hard not to like,” says regular Steve Higman.
Farrell attributes her outgoing personality to growing up as one of six children in a household she describes as loud, lively and filled with lighthearted banter. At one point her family lived in a twin house with one bathroom. “You kind of learn how to get your voice out in a crowd,” she jokes. “As crazy as it was, I miss it.”
But for all her charisma, Farrell’s approach is decidedly deliberate. “My mentality is: I can always learn something from someone,” she says. “Whether it’s an employee, a guest we have here in-store, someone in my family, my husband, my dog—I try to take away a little bit of something from every transaction or any conversation I have.”
Fellow employees praise her managerial finesse, attention to detail and genuine concern. “She’s like our mom,” says barista Ailise Wholey. “She really cares about us a lot.”
Farrell says winning Friendliest Barista in this year’s Best of Delaware contest has been a “humbling” and “mind-blowingly awesome” affirmation of her positive impact.
“It’s funny,” she says, “because I always work the [Best of Delaware party] for Brew HaHa!—I’ve been at the last two or three—so now, the joke going around the main office is: Will I work it or will I attend?”
(For her sake, we hope it’s the latter.)