Coffee time keeps sense of community, relationships in small towns
By Cynthia Scheer Telescope News
It’s not about the coffee.
It’s about seeing friends. And checking in. And hearing the local news. And sharing goodies.
And, okay, it might be a little bit about the coffee, especially if it’s free. People don’t need a reason to come together and share a pot of coffee.
They don’t even need a coffee shop. A community center, mechanic shop or any other roofed building with space for a couple chairs is just fine for several coffee groups in Republic County. The gathering is about the people.
“We see our friends and family every day,” said Glen Kirk, who gathers at Jane Ann Carlgren’s Styleaire in Scandia. “If somebody doesn’t show up, we call,” Carlgren said, adding that there are 17 coffee regulars. “And sometimes we send a search party out.”
“Heaven forbid you sleep late,” Robyn Nelson said.
The morning coffee lasts … as long as it lasts. “It depends on what we’re talking about,” Kirk said. “And it depends on who comes in late.”
“Usually we can get everything discussed within an hour,” said Pam Isaacson, who also attends coffee at Styleaire.
Across the street from Styleaire at Home Oil a “farmer crowd” of 10-15 people gathers from 6:30 to 8 a.m. The group consumes 8-10 pots of coffee a day, said the repair shop’s owner, Kevin Simmons, and some of the coffee-goers return in the afternoon.
Agenda Oil Co. in Agenda also gathers a regular farmer crowd. Coffee begins as early as 6:30 a.m., and the weather determines the crowd. Cold, rainy days will yield up to 15 farmers while a nice, warm day generates only 5-6.
On Wednesdays at 3 p.m. “up to three tables full” of people gather at Agenda’s Hope Floats for coffee and tea.
At the community hall in Munden, coffee lasts from 7:30 a.m. until 9-ish. The two-day-a-week coffee draws at least 22 people most days. The men sit at the larger table at the front of the room. The women gather at the smaller table.
“The men get so loud that the women can’t hear themselves sometimes,” Peggy Stephens said with a laugh.
Volunteers Gary Lightfoot, Barb Newcomb and Josephine Strnad make the coffee, and coffee-goers bring treats and leave donations. The group donated more than $1,000 at coffee last year, which is given to the city for utilities as well as to other fundraising groups.
Many in the coffee crowd are creatures of habit.
“You can set your watch by them,” Carlgren said of the Styleaire crowd, which drinks up to 15 pots of coffee a day. “And some of them have designated seating. If I re-arrange furniture when I vacuum I hear about it.”
Marla Wilson is one of the coffee regulars at Styleaire who has a seat picked out. From that spot, she said, she can see her store across the street and watch for customers while having coffee.
When the door opens and a coffee-goer enters, a jostling for chairs ensues. Several folding chairs stand in the corner for crowded days.
The group does more than just discuss the previous days’ happenings. They’ve filled Easter eggs while they’ve talked, and they’ve cut out projects for preschoolers.
And if food is needed for a funeral dinner or social function, people know to call Carlgren.
“If a group needs something, I can get it quick,” she said. “I just start asking people at coffee, ‘Would you bring a cake or a salad?’”