I was sitting in the park yesterday, reading a book and waiting for my masked friend to arrive so we could order lunch from a new restaurant. When they did, they politely asked what I was reading and I handed them the book so they could do that thoughtful scan you do of random middle pages of a book where you read a paragraph with zero context and nod your head as if that one sentence makes it look good.
I told my friend about where I got the book, when I started reading it, the general synopsis and genre, and what I knew about the author. As they closed it and placed it on the picnic table, I suddenly felt the need to show off.
“And look at this bookmark,” I said, “it’s from my bookstore in Washington.” With one finger securely marking my spot, I handed him the worn piece of paper. “That’s the bookstore I always talk about. You get a bookmark with every book you buy. I’ve got a million of these.”
Pre-pandemic, I often spent Saturday mornings at a local coffee shop. I ordered steamed milk, and set up my computer at the same table under a sign that says “COFFEE.” A chair and a coach away, there’s a coffee table with books from the local library. The books are for sale to benefit the library (usually for under $3). Sometimes, there’s a man playing soft acoustic guitar.
A friend from high school owns a bakery in Ashland, Ohio. Despite not living in Ohio, I’ve had the incredible privilege of visiting several times and each time I’m greeted by a wall of unique coffee mugs, fresh flowers and homemade wreaths, and the sense of community one can only find in a place filled with tea, scones, and pure magic.
There’s a cafe in my neighborhood in New York City with mis-matched furniture and dim lighting. There’s a cafe with no WiFi but the best hot apple cider. There’s a cafe that is based on Alice in Wonderland and a cafe that overwhelms me with the memory of a bowl of soup and a life-changing decision.
I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about for today’s post but as I was splashing water on my face this morning, I thought about what an incredible service coffee shops and bookstores provide. A place to gather. A place for comfort. A place to study. A place to play. A place to experience. A place to love.
So thank you to the coffee shop owners. The bakeries. The independent bookstores. Thanks to those who put a piano in the middle of the shelves so that a passerby can fill four walls with music that reminds us of a different time. So that we may dance. So that we may dream.
The pandemic has forced many small businesses to lay off staff, reduce services, or close completely. If you are able, buy from the independent book store instead of Amazon. Stop at the local coffee shop instead of Starbucks. Go to a bakery and buy one of everything. (We won’t tell if you don’t share.) It seems like a simple action. But loving on our favorite local businesses can go a long way right now. Who are you going to support today?