Don't try to look for a regular cash register at Alabaster Coffee Roaster & Tea Co. - you won't find one.
When owner Karl Fisher first started the business, he knew that he wanted to use technology both as a way to improve his business and as a way to be remembered. In about two months after he opened, he made the technological dream a reality.
Fisher bought an iPad, a touch-screen tablet computer, so that he could use an application called "Square." The application does everything a regular cash register can do, but it can also email or text message electronic receipts.
Alabaster uses modern technology such as iPads and laptops to as registers and to control their coffee roaster. The coffee roaster is controlled by a laptop.
The digital receipts benefit people who prefer to do their banking online.
Alabaster has used the iPad since autumn last year, shortly after opening in August.
"Best-case scenario, it would work," Fisher said. "Worst-case scenario, we would try something else. And it worked really, really well."
The application creates a full cash register system. Fisher could put in his full menu into the program, with items, sizes, tax, tips, prices and descriptions.
Leaning how to use the Square application takes only minutes. The screen has a display that shows all of the drinks in alphabetical order. If a person orders an Espresso, an option will pop up for the barista to choose either "single" or "double." The employee can then add or remove sales tax.
A piece that plugs into the headphone port allows users to swipe credit cards or cash can be paid. The application shows the change to give, if necessary. After choosing a method of payment, the application asks whether to send a receipt through email or text message. The transaction ends showing what the customer paid and where.
Receipts are then sent to the back-room office and to the customer, showing what items were bought, for how much, and the method of payment.
If a person has a credit card linked into their cell phone, he or she can start a tab at Alabaster without ever taking the card out of the wallet.
The iPad also helps customers remember the coffee shop.
"It's very memorable," Fisher said. "Quite a number of people have never seen one. It's a sticking point."
By using the small iPad, which has a 9.7 inch display screen, more counter space is available, which makes it low profile.
"It's completely mobile," Fisher said.
Alabaster does catering events, so when a person needs to buy something, everything can be done off-location. Fisher does not even need his iPad. He has the same program on his cell phone, which means he can do credit card transactions at the event.
Fisher first heard about Square in April last year. It was used primarily in small businesses, including a coffee shop in California.
The program is security-protected and linked up with the coffee shop's bank account.
Since its usage, Fisher said he has not had any problems.
Because of the program's success, Fisher has been suggesting it to other businesses.
"We're starting to see other regional businesses using it," he said. "We've been cheerleading for a while. ... It helped me as a business owner."
That's not the only technological solution Fisher has. His coffee roaster is controlled by a laptop.
From his laptop, he can do everything on the roaster, including turning it on.
"I like experimenting with what works best," Fisher said. He can change temperatures and the length of time beans are roasted.
Since the coffee plant is an agricultural crop, certain types are not always available, so Fisher has to substitute with other plants.
He explained that one type of coffee from a farm in Ethiopia is not the same as another one in Costa Rica, or even a different one in Ethiopia. Each type is roasted differently. Trying to roast coffee perfectly is a "constantly moving target."
The roaster was custom-built by Diedrich Manufacturing. The coffee beans go into the roaster and it takes between 12 to 16 minutes to finish.
All of the coffee Fisher buys is ethically sourced, but not necessarily fair trade or bird friendly.
"Just because a coffee meets certification doesn't mean it's ideal," he said. "And just because a coffee doesn't mean certification doesn't mean it isn't ideal."
He said some farmers produce coffee using sustaining processes, but they might not be able to afford to be fair trade.
In the fall, Fisher will have a direct trade contract with a farm in El Salvador. Using Skype, a computer program where users can instant message, talk through microphones or video chat, Fisher will be able to see how the coffee is made and the farm can see how it is used.