Calling Out for Coffee Shops

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What is one place that all rural areas have in common? They all have a local coffee gathering spot. The specific locations of these can vary, it may be: the gas station, McDonald’s, the feed store, a café, or if really lucky, a coffee shop.

Wherever it is, every rural community has one. They are important places! The local coffee gathering places are filled with local community gossip, laughing, technical problem solving, bragging, and sharing of sorrow. But, more than anything, they are important places of personal connections and social gathering.

So many rural communities across the whole country are deteriorating: young people move away and don’t come back, the young people who stay fall into the substance abuse trap, the elderly move to nursing homes, and others are just so technology obsessed they forget to live the lives around them instead of the lives found on screens.

But, the coffee gathering place is different. It is an opportunity for the retired people to come together Monday through Friday and speak with others, to take away the feeling of isolation or loneliness. The world’s problems may be fixed over a cup of coffee, or at the very least, a solution to a problem on the farm or a difficult grandchild. It can be a place to discuss worries, celebrate exciting family news, and laugh at ridiculous jokes.

Photo by Crystal Krapfl.

Every rural town has a coffee gathering place, but maybe not a coffee shop. My mom and her friends, after working out together, go out for coffee every weekday. A few years ago, they had a coffee shop to go to — a place that had specialty coffee drinks and fresh homemade pastries. But, then it closed down. The bakery did, too. Now they have to go to a dingy café. The laughter, problem solving, and worries of life are still shared. But, the atmosphere is different; it’s not a coffee shop. A couple of months ago my friend was telling me a story about how some buyers of lumber from a different country were in my small hometown in Iowa to buy lumber from the town’s saw mill. They asked my friend where the coffee shop was. My friend told them there wasn’t a coffee shop in town, but the local gas station sold coffee. They asked again, finding it very hard to believe that the town didn’t have a coffee shop.

Every rural place should have a coffee shop. They are a place of gathering, a comfortable atmosphere for getting together with friends, a place where new ideas come to fruition. Every Monday through Friday there will be regulars that come in that bring stability to the business. But, a coffee shop provides more than that. It is a place that invites young people to stay for hours and talk, and it’s a safe place for them to spend time. It is a place where entrepreneurs can conduct business and a nice place to meet customers. It is a meeting place for community leaders.

A coffee shop is a place to drink coffee and so much more. Many businesses have opened and closed in rural places. But, a coffee shop is the most missed one for me. If your small town has a coffee shop, consider yourself lucky. If your town doesn’t have one, and you are looking into starting a business, consider a coffee shop. They can help bring life and vigor to a small town.