Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Java Locale



It’s a quirky little place. The menu—sandwich and wrap selections, coffees and specialty drinks—is hand-written in brightly colored chalk on blackboards hanging behind the counter. Like most coffee shops, the sound of hissing and smell of freshly brewed beans adds to the ambiance. I glance at today’s selection of coffee flavors, also written in chalk on a small board leaning on the counter: hazelnut, organic Kona and the regular, fair trade option. But today I’m tempted by a mocha. Why not treat myself a little?

Tucked among a string of small businesses that come and go, victims of a sick economy, the Steaming Bean thrives on Main Street. We have two coffee shops in town. Both offer clusters of tables, free wifi, and an assortment of baked goodies along with their java choices. But I like The Bean, as it’s known by. It’s a little funkier, darker, cozier. I grab my steaming mocha in the ceramic mug and head up two steps to the platform area to sip, write and people-watch, one of my favorite pastimes.

A good coffee shop nestled in a small town or neighborhood takes on a Cheers-like quality, where everyone knows your name. I recognize a few people, smile and give the nod of recognition. Others walk in and strike up conversations with folks sitting at the table beside me. The music, a selection with a Latino beat, pulses in the background along with the soft conversation and sounds of the espresso machine. Someone has ordered a bagel with black bean hummus "shmere", and a smoky smell of burnt bagel crumbs wafts out from the toaster.

A few people are reading. Others, like me, are typing away on their computer, sipping a warming brew, just right for a cold day. A trio of school-aged girls arrive talking in the excited voices. They are commenting on the wall art, an ever-changing gallery for local artisans. Today’s art features a male African American dancer wearing a brightly ornate costume, his legs toned and muscular, his lips full and nose broad, several portraits of Native American women, rich with ethnic features and native costumes, and glowing with beauty. I know the artist. He is an older student at the local college, a Native American and has a passion and obvious talent for depicting beauty as it is, not as the media would gloss it over to be.

I am watching the time. Soon the neighborhood-watch officer will be by to mark tires with chalk, making sure parked vehicles abide by the two-hour time limit for street parking. I've already been here for two hours but am so comfortable and relaxed, I’m hesitant to leave.

I’m skeptical of chain coffee shops—a Starbucks on every corner, in every grocery, in every discount department store.  Men and women in suits, hurrying to order their double cappacino, no whip, skinny, grandes. Sure these cookie-cutter  franchises can serve up a frothy concoction, but can they offer a familiar smile, a smattering of local publications to peruse and the quirky creations of local artists?

If I’m in the big city, I’ll seek out the small neighborhood coffee shop—the one with homemade pastries and fair trade coffees. I’ll look for the cozy shop with a young barista wearing a slogan t-shirts and dreadlock hair held back by a faded bandana. I know if I find a unique corner nook like this, I'll sit down and order a cup-- not to go, but to stay and savor. I'll pull out my computer or flip through a local paper, do a little people watching and relax. If I know my coffee joints, we won't be strangers for long.


15 comments:

  1. When we lived in Bridger, we used to take the 20 minute trip to Red Lodge. They had a quirky little bakery and coffee shop. I miss those.

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    1. I love those kinds of places, outside the realm of chains. I like the feeling of community-- almost like a church-- a local pub or coffee shop can provide.

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  2. Of course. There's nothing quite as special as a neighborhood shop. The smells and sounds you described are signs of wonderfulness. Good companionship, good coffee - they simply go together.

    You might be interested in seeing and reading about a little neighborhood coffee shop, The Red Chair, that I created in miniature! It's based on a real place. Just go to my blog and click on the page "My World in Miniature" under the blog header. You're welcome to see a few of my other miniature buildings,too! The Red Chair is near the bottom of the page. I always create little stories for my pieces, but this one had been created for me by real events.

    Thanks for your earlier visit! I always enjoy your comments!

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    1. Oh Mary Ann-- I'm looking forward to checking this out.. thank you!

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    2. How wonderful! I just checked it out. LOVE the miniatures. Good heavens, what an art! And I love the stories, including the one of the Red Chair. Delightful, just simply delightful. I hope others check it out too.

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  3. Guess what? We have 2 coffee places in our little town, too, and one of them is also nicknamed "The Bean"! I could imagine everything you wrote as though it were happening in front of me -- so similar was the sound of it. Even the photo is very similar to the look of The Bean here! Nice post!

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    1. Oh that's funny-- like the twin small town hang out. Well then, yes, you can certainly imagine the feel of the place-- it's quirky atmosphere and sense of familiarity. That's what I was hoping to evoke for people.

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  4. This sounds like such a quaint and cozy place to do your writing, and the atmosphere sounds vibrant and stimulating- a perfect place to create!

    It's such a coincidence that you wrote about your coffee house experience today because shortly before I visited your blog, I read an article online about a "bitter barista"...If you google "bitter barista," you can read more... I'd be curious to hear your thoughts...

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    1. You know it's funny, when I was double-checking my spelling of barista , I saw that article and read the tagline but didn't delve into the story. I'll have to go back and do that.

      I love this coffee shop and need to make it a point to get out and enjoy it more often.

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  5. You make me want to find a small coffee shop, snuggle up in a big chair with a book and a hot chocolate.

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    1. Oh I love coffee shops with big, cushy chairs! That's what this one is missing.

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  6. I'm loving coming over here to sit in fine company. Always a pleasure.

    A new coffee shop, bookstore, and organic market is opening up in our town! YAY! I passed by it the other day (we have none of those already in town). I can't wait to hit it. I think I'll make it a daily trek and go and write there undisturbed for a couple of hours.

    Great post!

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    1. Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by for a cuppa. I have total envy for you new shop. Is this going to all be in one location? Heaven! It's like my three favorite types of haunts rolled into one. I hope it succeeds and flourishes. Yes, go. Savor. Be inspired!

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  7. I love neighborhood coffee shops; there's one within walking distance of my house. You really captured the ambience, well.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, thanks for stopping by. There really is just something cozy and welcoming about a local coffee shop, isn't there?

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