I was working on the mission statement for the coffee house this week and it felt like I was throwing a bunch of things together. The mission included offering great coffee, but also art exhibits, live music, and event space, and bakery items and catering. I wondered how all of these items were related, and then it hit me: storytelling.
When we first opened the coffee house, we were very focused on our space. Above all, we wanted people to feel comfortable, to come together and spend time together, and to be able to share artwork, music and more. Hence the name, The Meeting Place on Market.
Since then we realized that a coffee house does not survive on place alone, and so we focused a lot on our offerings, coffee, food, gifts, catering, desserts, breads, and how to make them more pleasing to the general public.
We like doing both, but I’ve realized that above all we are about storytelling.
I love to be able to tell the young musician that yes, he and his band can give a concert on a Friday night. I love being able to tell a local artist that yes, she can hang her artwork a particular month. I love seeing a young culinary artist bloom under the freedom of creating confectionary delights. I love watching a new barista take pride in the intricate coffee drinks he creates. I love helping people tell their stories.
Let’s face it, the creative arts are not a very easy way to make a living. Whether a person make beautiful cakes and chocolates, thought provoking paintings, or original music, those things are not very appreciated in our efficiency and convenience focused world, and definitely not highly compensated.
The musician who is stretching his wings and trying out something that isn’t necessarily honed, nor perfect, nor even mainstream – he struggles to find an audience. And yet something inside of him is crying out to tell his story.
The artist who has had no formal training, yet is inspired to paint, paint and paint. Some of the pieces are home runs, others not so much. But regardless, she is telling her original story. She is the only one in the world who can.
The baker who explores alternative ingredients and experiments with a variety of recipes to accommodate tastes and nutritional needs - that is her way of telling her story.
And the high school student who is hard pressed to find a place to be himself. Everywhere he goes, home, school, work, he is under someone’s thumb. But he wants a place where he can be un-judged. He is learning how to tell his story. He needs the space to do that, even if it’s not necessarily cool or popular or even pleasing.
We all want to share our story in one way or the other. I believe the popularity of facebook attests to that fact. We don’t always understand that is what we are doing. But deep down, we want to share our own, individual, unique story, and we want to be part of others stories.
It’s tempting for me to want to sterilize the way artists or musicians share through our coffee house. I understand some music styles or some lyrics make people uncomfortable. But in trying to filter, I am afraid first of all of denying someone the privilege of sharing themselves, and secondly, of missing out on a diamond in the rough, an artist or musician who is new and untested, but whose work touches my soul. So when a man comes to me and says he wants to start an open mic night once a month that features Christian artists, I say sure. When a group of teenagers asks to perform music of undefined style and content, I say, “when can you come?”. When a folk singer offers to play a set of original songs about the earth, I say welcome. I know that some customers might not like Christian songs and someone might be turned off by folk music and some might think the teenagers’ music is too loud, but someone else might love it. I want you the audience to choose what music you want to listen to. I want to give you the opportunity to open your minds to new experiences. I want to let others share their story.
And I want you to be part of their stories. Because what we are about more than anything else is a place. A place to relax, to talk with friends, to experience something new, to host a baby shower, to give a presentation, to listen to music, to see art, to try a new cooking style, to experience the story telling of people around you.
This coffee house is about storytelling.