The coffee shop where I incubated the most ideas is probably one in my hometown of Bay City, Michigan. Brewtopia has changed names and ownership over the years, but this coffee shop has been an ongoing part of my life since I returned to Michigan (from Seattle) in the late 80s. It’s a convenient spot for meeting people and catching up, and it provides a cocoon-like atmosphere for sorting, prioritizing, and planning.
I’ve visited many coffee houses over the years, and these “containers of place” never seem to disappoint when it comes to a change of scenery and a fresh perspective. But they aren’t the only such containers that promote the creative process. For example, it doesn’t hurt at all that Brewtopia is just around the corner from one of the best fabric shops ever!
The Fabric Fair has been in Bay City for years. This immense fabric container has room after room of textile treasures, including a room especially for quilters. I could get lost in the possibilities held in this room. Arranged in aisles and rows, the bolts of fabric lead the eye from one color family to another. Bright colors, pastels, bold patterns, small prints, large prints–how does one decide? In this container of place, the raw materials for quilts and other patchwork creations are practically endless.
As a child, I went to The Fabric Fare with my mother, who was an excellent seamstress. And while it was a fabric paradise then, when they added the quilting room, I not only began to understand my mother’s interest in fabric, I began sharing that interest even though we create with fabric in different ways.
Another place from my childhood is a place that made my childhood possible. St. Laurent’s Brothers Nut House. Their slogan: Nuts since 1904. The family “story” is that my paternal grandparents met there. My grandfather worked there, and in those early days, my future grandmother went to be a secretary at the company, and the rest is history. So, yes, my grandparents met at the nuthouse!
St. Laurent Brothers is an amazing place. Full of barrels, bins, baskets, boxes, and other containers holding all kinds of candies, nuts, and other snacks. The old and new blend in this place with confections I remember from my childhood, along with an M&M display where you can personalize your own mix from a wide array of colors. My children have always loved our visits to St. Laurent Brothers. Over the years, I have also introduced many visitors to the Nut House, including a few students from Taiwan. Two other teachers and I accompanied 42 students to from Ming Chuan University in Taiwan to Saginaw Valley State University last summer for a 4-week study program. In addition to the field trips we did as a large group, a few students accompanied me on a two separate trips to Bay City. They loved St. Laurent Brothers and the treasures they found there. When they were finished with exploring the Nut House, they found me just a few blocks away, back at Brewtopia, sipping my coffee and making notes in my journal.
Today’s last “container of place” is the Sage Library. It is just one of the branches of the Bay Country Library System, but to me, it’s the most magnificent. When I was young, my parents brought us here every other Saturday morning, to bring back books and check out new ones. You see that turret on the second floor? That is where the children’s wing is. If you go up to that spot, you step up to a small alcove that contains rows of books under the windows. Those books were each containers in their own right, with information, stories, ideas, how-to’s, and puzzle books. We had worlds to explore in that glorious building. Our love of books and the wonders they held continued throughout our lives.
This concludes the tour of the containers of place from my home town. Each in its own way inspires creativity and imagination. Even though I now live in Taiwan, I make sure I return to Brewtopia and the other containers of place from my childhood. Bay City, Michigan may be unique in some ways, but not in the mere presence of places that provide incubation and process. Every city and town has its own places that inspire possibility. And coffee shops are only one entry point to that world. While I will always find other coffee houses to explore, there is something comforting about the familiar, about returning over and over to the place where it all began.