Sunday, January 23, 2011

Adieu to Cafe Noir

I AM going to write about how Salt Lake City is a good place to get coffee. But as of this coming week, it will be a little less good. Cafe Noir is closing when they run out of coffee, or at the end of the month, whichever comes first.

To a certain extent, it does not surprise me. It's a very small business trying to make it $2 - $4 at a time. It's not a business I would ever consider undertaking. But the closing makes me and many of my neighbors very sad.

Cafe Noir is nearest to my home. It's located in a tiny building that used to be a real scary C-store. It was the kind of store where you might pick a box of cereal off the shelf and find on the back a printed coupon that expired 5 years ago. I never went into the store and don't know anything about it. Perhaps it used to be beloved by neighborhood children, but by the time I saw it .... well I never ever considered even touching the door handle.

Then Ben came along and made Cafe Noir. He totally cleaned the place up and decorated it all in his signature colors, orange, browns and gray. He has a sweet little logo with stylized coffee tree beans leaves. I wish he had gotten around to having it put onto his own coffee ware. I would love to have a permanent souvenir, especially now.

The interior became bright and welcoming. There is a counter up by the window, a round table with several chairs and in any kind of decent weather, even in January when we have a nice blue sky day, tables and chairs outside.
The coffee is all organic, free trade, etc that comes from an award winning roaster in Wichita KS. They serve pastries, bagels and oatmeal. They also serve frozen drinks and a few smoothies.

Many neighborhood people like myself hung out there. But I suppose that my regular $2 cup of dark roast just wasn't enough to defer expenses. I would go there, get my coffee in a to-go mug with the logo from a different local coffee shop on it, and then sit as long as took me to drink my coffee and accomplish a variety of things. I usually began with writing in my journal book. Then I might move on to writing a letter, reading something or knitting. Or all of the above. I usually stayed a little more than an hour.

I already knew some other people who would stop in,and I got to know a few others too. At Cafe Noir I was more likely to spend time talking to someone else compared to other neighborhood shops.

One person who comes in regularly is a man named Ron who is mentally ill. I don't think he is homeless because he does not carry his belongings with him. But he admits to having a mental illness. "Don't ever get mentally ill," he said. "It's a terrible thing." Mostly he is quiet. He doesn't bother people, never asks for money or anything. He comes in and asks for a glass of water, which the staff gives him, and then he sits for awhile. Sometimes he goes outside for a smoke, but mostly he just sits quietly, drinks his water, uses the restroom and then leaves. I have spoken with him a little bit which is how I know a few facts about him .... he's from Milwaukee for example. On Jul Eve I sprung some money for him and bought him a drink. He picked a latte which I think is something he had never had, although he had heard the word a lot. He enjoyed it very much, and that was a nice Jul gift for me. But the fact that the staff and patrons at Cafe Noir all have no problems with Ron just being there says a lot about the whole gang, I think.

I would go to Cafe Noir at least once a week when I was in town, but I didn't go there every day. I went, in turn, to many of the other shops in my neighborhood, including a Starbucks at times. I probably couldn't have saved the place even if I had gone twice daily and ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, but I wish I had gone a bit more often.

But now it won't be there. My friend says that some patrons are talking about the possibility of "taking it over" but I won't hold my breath waiting for that. This week, though, I will go there every day until I can't go there any more. I will really miss Cafe Noir.

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