Monday, July 05, 2010

Geography of Coffee Shoppes: A Terrific Example

My favorite librarian has become a passionate blogger with a penchant for defining ambitious blog projects. The first was her 2009 Year of Reading "Year of" Books, which she followed with the even more ambitious 2010 Celebrating the States. Providing geographic, matrimonial, and culinary support to these projects has been a great experience so far. (Hint: her 2011 blog will be even more culinary, and I'll continue to play a part.)

Spanning all the remaining years of our lives is an even more ambitious blog project, which will end only when we cease to read and travel (that is, when we leave this mortal coil). Because we have settled in a town with an intriguing name, we have decided to visit all of the like-named places we can. The result is The Bridgewaters Project. (One of the other Bridgewaters secured the bridgewater.edu domain name ahead of our own bigger, more wired school, leaving us forever bridgew.edu -- bridge-wuh. This unintentional slight is probably part of what motivated us to embark on this.)

So far, our Bridgewaters Project has been a classic example of harvesting low-hanging fruit. In a geographic project, that means visiting the closest places first. Some of the more distant Bridgewaters (such as Bridgewater, England and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia) will take some planning, but we have been learning about our own town and making some casual visits to the more convenient Bridgewaters during our travels. In these cases, we are visiting with little or no planning, but learning enough to plan more in-depth return visits in the future. (We have the rest of our lives, after all!)

Yesterday, for example, we had a spontaneous visit to the Village of Bridgewater, New York as part of our annual tradition of driving our daughter to camp. After we were well under way, we checked the atlas and found that a Bridgewater was near our route, and made a worthwhile detour on our return trip. As a bonus, I found a great example to add to my coffee-shop geography repertoire.

A local couple is putting their creativity and hard work into a project that is addressing several important needs in the community. An out-of-use school building sits in the middle of the village, too valuable to tear down but offering too much floor space for most commercial uses in such a small settlement. Enter Ron and Linda Inger, who have converted much of the building into a sort of antique and crafts min-mall, with space available for local vendors. The most creative use of space in the building is the indoor skate park that provides low-cost recreation to local kids year-round (a wonderful thing in a place that gets 99 inches of snow a year).

They have also opened a coffee shop with light fare in several back rooms. It provides coffee, snacks, and a place for conversation for the skaters, the shoppers, and others who are -- as we were -- drawn in by the cafe banners and signs on the main road. (Like many old schools, but not so many new ones, this one is conveniently located at a major intersection.) One nice feature of the location of the Cafe'Teria (as it is cleverly called) is that it is located in several rooms, so that space is both cozy and ample at the same time. Finally, from my visit to this cafe, I confirmed something I have been learning about the selection of roasters. The decision is made on the basis of several factors, including price, freshness, quality (as appropriate to the anticipated customer base) and the service and  support materials that a roaster provides.

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