Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Community meeting places

I'm writing the blog in the nearest coffee shop/bookstore. It's two towns over from where I live. No chain coffee shop would have opened in this area -population density is too long. These people seem to be making a go of it. I'm glad they are.

People need places where they meet other people in a relaxed environment. Today I connected with some friends and they introduced me to people I hadn't met before. When you live out in the woods, meeting new people isn't that easy to do. The coffee shop gives people a reason to come to town. I first started coming in for the high speed Internet along with good coffee. Plenty of other people do the same.

Today I ran into the lady who's organizing a local farmer's market. She introduced me to another young woman who just moved into the area for the rural lifestyle. Some people are getting it.

I love a place with the sort of atmosphere that encourages people to connect. Too bad it's two towns over from where I live. It is the only place like it in the area, so I do meet people who live near me. Where else are they going to go?

My village has one of those combination store/gas station/restaurants. It used to be a local gathering place, but isn't any longer. The new owners "remodeled" and killed what made it great. The restaurant portion used to be open to the store. It was located in the front of the building with plenty of windows looking out on the street. People coming in for gas or a loaf of bread would see friends and end up sitting down and visiting for a while. The restaurant had a pretty random collection of tables and chairs. Nobody had any problem rearranging them to make visiting easier. Got to know my fellow citizens much better in that relaxed setting. Food was pretty good too.

The remodel placed the restaurant in the back, cut off from the rest of the building. There's a separate entrance from the back parking lot. The funky tables and chairs were replaced by hideous plastic and pressed wood booths. Everything is bolted to the floor. I don't eat there anymore. The place has no soul. It's no longer a meeting place. Even the food isn't as good.

It's that easy for a community to lose its informal community meeting house. The town is poorer for it.

If you are checking out an area to live in, see if there's some sort of gathering place there. You could learn more about the place over a cup of coffee than you'd learn in more formal settings.


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