Wednesday, I went to visit The Book Carriage in Roanoke, Texas. This is one of my favorite small bookstores. It is located on Oak Street, which is a great place to spend the day. There are restaurants and thrift stores and kitsch stores. Also, there is a shop that has delicious pie.
But I digress.
The Book Carriage has a local authors section, and they will order me anything I want if they don’t have it in stock.
Also, they’re just really cute:
I love The Book Carriage.
One of the things I look forward to is having a cup of coffee while I shop. Their in-house coffee bar serves basic espresso drinks. They have a La Marzocco espresso machine (or La Mar, as I like to call it). There’s a picture of it on their website (go ahead and look. I’ll wait). It’s a work of art. It also makes a damn fine cup of espresso. I make flirty eyes with it every time I go in. I’ve even invited it to come home with me, but so far, it has ignored my advances.
Wednesday, I made the short drive to Roanoke to visit The Book Carriage and Coffee Shop. I really needed a cup of coffee. I had been at work all day, and then I drove to Roanoke in early rush hour traffic. People are dumb, especially on two-lane roads. But it was all going to be worth it when I arrived and ordered my Americano with a dash of caramel syrup.
Alas, it was not meant to be.
I walked in, and I heard someone greet me from the second floor.
“Hello! How can I help you?”
“I’m fine – I’m just looking.”
“Okay, then. Let us know if you need anything!”
I started toward the coffee bar, and then I stopped, paralyzed with disbelief.
It wasn’t open.
There were no pastries in the pastry box. The lights were out behind the bar. La Mar was there, but it was quiet and still.
I felt a little lightheaded as I stumbled toward the books to look around. As the shock subsided, I came to terms with the fact that I was not going to get my Americano that afternoon. I picked up several books off the shelf and read their covers, but my heart wasn’t in it. I had lost the will to browse. I found Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life because I had just finished it, and I loved it, and I needed to hold something I loved. So I clutched it to my heart and made my way to the checkout table.
You might be thinking, “Why didn’t you ask about the coffee bar?” And I thought about asking. I did. But then I decided against it, because I wasn’t sure I could be trusted to respond in a calm and rational manner if they told me the unthinkable – that the coffee bar was closed permanently. I might have actually cried in the store. That might seem like an overreaction to you, but you just don’t understand how much I love (and desperately needed) this coffee.
I have had a couple of days to calm down, so today I made the call.
“Hi, this is The Book Carriage. How may I help you?”
“I was wondering if your coffee shop was open the same hours as the rest of the store.”
(See how I did that? Calm. Simple. Not “I WENT THERE AND YOU FAILED TO GIVE ME COFFEE! WHY DO YOU HATE ME AND ALL GOOD THINGS?!??!?!” So it’s good that I waited.)
“We no longer have a coffee shop in house.”
“Oh. Okay. Well, thank you.”
Even two days later, this made me tear up.
It’s not that I can’t get good coffee elsewhere. I have a perfectly delicious cup of coffee sitting in front of me right now.
It’s just that…I feel like I failed them. I didn’t go there often enough or send enough people their way, and now they’re closed. I don’ t even know if lack of patronage was why they closed, so my guilt might be misguided. Perhaps the people who ran it came into a lot of money and decided to travel the world rather than run a coffee shop. I hope something like that happened.
But I suppose that’s not very likely. The good coffee on Oak Street is gone.
Support your local shops. They don’t have the backing of a corporation. They’re all on their own. If we love them, we have to make sure they stay in business. We can help by frequenting the shop and hooking them up with a little free advertising.
I know that I alone cannot save a shop. But I have a Facebook. I have a Twitter. If I have a good experience with a coffee shop (or bookstore…or restaurant…etc.), I can show how adorable it is on Instagram. I can blog about it. And then maybe more people will go and have a good experience, and they will tell their friends.
At some point this summer, I will take a morning or afternoon off work and go scouting for new coffee in the Roanoke/Argyle vicinity. I know there are some great places in Keller and Southlake, but if I can find one closer to my bookstore, that would be ideal. I am also keeping an eye out for an email from The Book Carriage just in case they decide to auction La Mar off for charity or something. La Mar would look gorgeous in my kitchen. That would take a little of the sting out of it.
But right now, I am sad.