Friday, January 30, 2015

The Coffee Shop Chronicles - No. 26


I was torn that morning between watching the sunrise or getting to the coffee shop at an early hour. The sunrise had potential to be a beauty. In the winter there isn't a lot of sunshine, blue skies or sunrises. I am happy for any small peek the sun will give us. But Scout and I had been scoping out the downtown coffee shop for the past week, I needed to know the best time to come and actually find a place to sit and write.

Displaced from our usual morning walking route at home due to icy sidewalks, we had moved downtown. Our downtown has a snow melt system under the sidewalks, creating ice and snow free walking paths. Usually we arrive downtown about 8 a.m. There is enough daylight to see but the shoppers have not yet arrived since most of the stores don't open until 10 a.m.


Scout is a little over-excited at new places and around lots of people. This is something that we are working on. When we had both dogs it was hard for me to take them places like our downtown because they were both extremely excitable. Two golden retrievers who love people and want to be everyone's best friends proved challenging for me.

Now with only Scout it is easier for me to tackle places like downtown. Currently we are working on healing on the busier sections of the downtown blocks, also sitting and staying at each corner if the traffic light is red. He is doing amazingly well, so the old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks would be incorrect.


Anyway, as I was saying, Scout and I have been scoping out Holland's famous coffee shop for the past week. This place is crazy busy all the time which is why I don't usually go there to write. I hate trying to wade through a sea of people to find a table in some remote corner of the coffee shop. But I have noticed when we walk by between 8:00 and 8:30 each morning that the place is fairly quiet. So that was my plan, to arrive in that time period.

What I hadn't planned on was being awake before four, I finally decided to just get up. I figured I could get a lot done in four hours. My husband was out of town for work so it was just Scout and myself anyway. By half past seven I was ready to go, a lot accomplished already for the morning.

I arrived at the coffee shop at ten minutes to eight.

Unlike every other morning that I had observed the coffee shop, the place was busy. Maybe it was the before eight o'clock rush, everyone getting coffee on their way to work. A lot of people did get coffee and leave with their to-go cups in hand. But there was still a high concentration of men sitting at the tables that were usually empty when I walked by. Maybe it was a men's society meeting on the last Tuesday of the month.


I didn't need a table in the main part of the coffee shop though. I wanted to sit at the counter than runs along the front windows. I wanted to sit by the window and watch the walkers and runners outside, my new community of people. These are the people that Scout and I see every morning as we walk. They have become my new cast of characters. I wanted to have the opportunity to observe them in a more deliberate way.

There is the little China doll grandmother in her powder blue winter parka, the hood pulled tightly around her face. We are always walking opposite directions so we tend to pass each other a few times doing our loops. I am quite certain she does not like dogs or at least not big dogs, because she always moves to the far edge of the sidewalk when she sees us coming. The other morning I gave her a big smile and said "Good Morning". I am hoping that I can win her over with kindness, and eventually she won't move as far over when she sees us coming.

There is the lady in the winter version of a track suit, shiny, bright pink winter jacket and shiny black rain resistant pants. She wears a thick, wooly looking headband in her long brown hair to cover her ears (and half her head). She also has enormous black snowmobile gloves on, and whenever I see her, she is talking on her black flip phone. She is holding that tiny little phone in her enormous black gloves and holding the phone about eight inches from her head because of the big wooly headband. I wonder if whoever she is listening to is on speakerphone?

There is the lady in her 60's who runs past us every morning in her latest bright, colorful outfit purchased from the running outfitter located in our downtown.  I am quite certain this lady lives by me because I would recognize the bright outfits and that unique running form anywhere. She too has decided to move to safer terrain.

On that morning as I sat at my window seat, I wanted a bundled up lady with a over zealous golden retriever to walk past. I wanted to know what I look like to the people that sit at this window on the other days of the week. Do they wonder about me?  Do they try to figure out my story? Some might. I can't be the only one that is curious. But instead of a lady with a golden retriever I got two ladies walking with a greyhound/doberman looking dog. He was wearing the most adorable black and gray plaid dog coat. I think Scout would be irresistible with a bright red plaid coat of his own. I actually looked at them at Christmas, but as much nervous energy as he has he would probably get too hot.


As I sat there at my window looking out at our beautiful downtown filled with old buildings containing unique shops and the most amazing restaurants, I realized how fortunate we are to have this downtown. While most cities' downtowns are dead or dying, ours is alive, filled with walkers and runners before the shops open, shoppers during the day, and at night the town is alive with people of all ages coming to experience one of the many brew pubs or trendy local food restaurants. If you are ever in the Holland, Michigan area you must make a visit to our amazing downtown, have a stop in at the local coffee shop, have a seat at the window counter and tell me what you see.

25 comments:

  1. As always it is like being with you... very nice post. It is great that you have those heated sidewalks. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

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  2. A morning brightener for sure, reading this while drinking my morning coffee. And! I see you did have a blue sky that morning. Ah, heated sidewalks...that is fantastic!

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  3. Those heated sidewalks should be a requirement for all cities where it snows. Your downtown looks beautiful with it's old buildings. It is wonderful how it is still 'alive' with restaurants and shops. I love how your coffee was in a beer mug. Did they warm the mug first? :)

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  4. I loved this post and it sparked some aha moments as well. I too am drinking my coffee while I read. It is so interesting to read about others' environments. I live out of the city and my neighborhood is quiet....either retired or working families. One man and HIS golden retriever walk by every day....the dog is old and still beautiful....always seems to be tugging at the leash and trying to get his master to hurry up. His master is bundled up in a brown knit stocking cap pulled low over his brow and a heavy ski jacket and blue jeans and heavy work boots.

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  5. I would love to sit in the coffee shop and see a lovely lady with her golden retriever walk by! I would smile and wave and think she enjoys every moment of her life! I was in a town this week where the downtown area was still very much alive. It is an unusual sight; most are pretty vacant! Love the cool ghost sign on the building. There aren't a lot of those left around either!

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  6. You do know your audience, don't you? Yup, you did make us happy! I enjoyed meeting your new cast of characters, and I am drooling over that yummy-looking latte and pastry. And I can't tell you how jealous I am of those headed sidewalks. You should see ours - ouch!

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  7. There is something special about downtown. Ours is vibrant and full of character, but I don't make it down there a often as I would like. I'm lucky enough to live just a block away from the town centre of our neighborhood. It's a small downtown and not a bad substitute.

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  8. I never remember to bring my camera when I go for coffee...great pix!...:)JP

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  9. We should all be so lucky to have heated sidewalks, even in the neighborhoods,wouldn't that be great!! I enjoyed your chronicle, your descriptions, your gift of writing and yes, I agree...downtown Holland is really special. And I am lucky to live in a town very similar to yours, very much alive early and well into the night hours.

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  10. Love your downtown it looks as if it could be my sort of place. Thanks for sharing your coffee with me..

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  11. Excellent Sarah . . .
    Reading you is delight . . .
    Loved the bundled up, large gloved, flip phone gal . . .
    I have her pictured perfectly for when I frequent downtown Holland, on snow free sidewalks . . . for my cuppa . . .

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  12. I like those long street shots and what fun to sit in the window of the coffee shop and watch the world go by, imagining stories of all those who pass by!

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  13. Interesting read. Heated sidewalks would be so cool. That pastry looked mighty good too.

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  14. I can imagine siting next to you and seeing these people as you describe them. Awesome writing, so much detail. So enjoyed my visit there. Hoping now to see it in the winter.

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  15. I am nearly embarrassed to say how excited I got to see you had posted this the other day. Rather than quickly digest it before heading out to work, I decided to wait until I could take my time and savor the details. I enjoyed your new point of view out the window as well as the characters you and Scout encountered on your walks.

    Thanks.

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  16. Next time I'm in MI I will be sure to check out this area of Holland. We always spend some time in Holland, as that's where my mother-in-law lives.

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  17. I LOVE down towns. Glad yours is booming.

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  18. Sarah, I'm enjoying my own version of the perfect day today. I started out with a long and brisk walk through my downtown with friends and now I am catching up on my favorite blogs. How lovely that you wrote about downtown views and the friends we make simply by showing up in the same places at the same times. I live this life, too - even though we are miles apart. That you take time to experience life to so fully, to write and take pictures, only serves to enhance our awareness and appreciation. Life is good!

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  19. JPs let you bring Scout inside with you? How cool is that?
    I'm with you, I love downtown Holland. Downtown Kalamazoo is growing more & more as well & a wonderful place to sit & people watch. There's a really great coffee shop called Cafe Casa right on the downtown mall - you should check it out next time your in the Zoo.

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  20. I love your coffee shop observations! And I love old downtown areas. How wonderful the sidewalks are heated! That was a very good decision by someone. It is expensive, but...in the long run, everyone wins. No lawsuits from falls, shop owners have business!!, people come to town because they know they can get around. I love it!

    Loved your post, as usual! Thanks.

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  21. Small towns seem to be making a come back in our area. Our town of Ambler, I avoided when we moved here. Now it is full of life and we frequent it often.

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  22. You've brought your hometown to life through your words. We recently did a 5-state road trip, and passed through many vibrant small towns, some of which were looking pretty desolate the last time we passed through. It's so great to see these towns making a comeback, to know that others believe that keeping their downtown alive is a key part of a thriving community.One day I'll have to come to Michigan; it's one of the few states I've not driven through.

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  23. I like to hear about Holland through your eyes. I'm a big fan of thriving down towns where people can walk instead of drive and talk to each other instead of text. So much healthier way to live. Perhaps I will get there one day…your snack looks great too!

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  24. Heated sidewalks sounds wonderful...a safe place to walk. So nice that Scout can go with you....we have such a small town...really small but it is lovely also. The draw back is only one tiny coffee shop...and all the locals hang out there...hard to get anything done...
    This was lovely post with lots of feeling about your town.

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  25. I always enjoy your coffee shop chronicles! So fun and worth waking at 4 am for. Still hard to imagine heated sidewalks! Nice that scout is getting to go out, and sure he will overcome his challenges.

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Thank you so much for visiting today and taking the time to read my thoughts on life. :)