Written by Lori Thiessen

The coffee shop office I’ve been talking about in these posts has been in an urban setting, but what about the rural coffee shops? Do they serve a similar purpose as their urban counterparts?

On their last trip back to visit family in the Prairies, my mom and dad were invited out by a family member to the local coffee shop. Just a cup of plain black coffee and a slice of homemade pie. Nothing fancy. No multitude of choices to wade through. Clean. Simple. Honest.

The town was quite small and there wasn’t another coffee shop around for miles. It was the hub of social activity. Kinda like church without the guilt.

Mom and Dad were introduced to everybody in the place and everybody smiled and said that they had heard the BC relatives were coming to visit.

Several men were sitting at a booth chatting away. One of them got up to leave and came over to say his goodbyes to my parents. “Nice to have met you. I gotta go and see a man about a bull.” My mother and father though both were raised on a farm until their teen years, were a little taken aback by this announcement. The relative noticed their slight alarm and said,”Yup, he really is going to see a man about a bull.” It wasn’t a quaint euphemism for anything.

The prairie relative went on to say that the farmers and ranchers in the area often came to town while running errands and they always stopped for a cup of coffee. The simple coffee shop was the place for men in the agricultural business to exchange news, information, buy and sell, get help, advice all from one place. The simple coffee shop that sold one kind of coffee and home baked goods also served up a multitude of current information and comradeship.

The rural coffee shop serves much the same purpose as Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse of 17th century England. It was the place to mix with others in your industry, get news and info. In fact, I would argue because of its isolation, the rural coffee shop really serves one industry, local agriculture, in the same way Lloyd’s coffeehouse exclusively served marine insurers.

Next time you drive past a coffee shop in a tiny town, don’t scoff. Stop in. Sit down. Have a cup of coffee and slice of pie. You might learn something.

Q: Would you say that individual coffee shops in certain parts of a large city cater to a particular group of people or those connected to a particular industry?

Thanks for dropping by and I’ll save your seat until next time!

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