Our inspiration …
comes from our own experiences of when we felt the most connected- the places, the people- anytime we felt invited in and then welcomed to just sit and be ourselves. Perhaps we’re old souls, but this seems to always happen at those places where you feel awkward at first-like you just accidentally and unknowingly walked into someone’s living room, and instead of being appalled, they invite you to sit down and have a cup of coffee. This most frequently happens on our cycling excursions- the times when we are desperate for food, water, air conditioning, a chair… A place to pass out and die semi-comfortably. So, we may be a little biased. Anyway, we find these gems of places in the smallest of towns, on the humblest of corners with paint-chipped and weathered signs, where you can barely make out the words ‘Carolyn’s’ or ‘fried’ or ‘coffee.’
When we decided to open the shop, it was definitely a decision based in longing- a desire to relive the days of general stores and morning gathering places. Our first attempt in understanding was to be in the places we still saw this kind of community happening. We wanted to dwell in a kind of connectedness that we weren’t experiencing except in very specific and limited ways, like Saturday nights playing fooseball at a bar. We wanted simple, clear-cut, everyday community.
So we moved.
We moved to a town 30 miles away from our current location in Galesburg, IL. Actually looking back, the discovery of the house came first, when we were looking for our storefront. It was perfect. It was tiny. It was old. It was brick. It was saturated in history as one of the founding homes in our 300-person community, and when we saw it, in all it’s simple and beautiful hometown glory, we could not pass it by. Nestled just above the undeniably beautiful and utterly rural Spoon River Valley, was our new town in Maquon, Illinois.
Our first Saturday was some kind of heaven, with a trip to the library and what would be one of our biggest inspirations of all, our still favorite cafe, The Feed Store. It was pure and utter small town bliss and we felt lucky. We walked, we rode our bikes, we discovered how to navigate the paradoxically simple but complex nature of trying to belong in a community into which most people are just born. And we were very happy… But.
I have the horrible habit of always wanting more, as you do. My happiness in our small village was legitimate. I was a teacher, and I found a job pretty quickly. We invited friends to stay, although many friends couldn’t because of the drive, and being busy, and we understood. We were now, what seemed to be, in a different world. And as connected as we wanted to feel, as connected as we did feel when we went to The Feed Store, we often felt a bit disconnected.
I wanted both. I wanted connection, and I wanted simplicity. I wanted town and I wanted our new found place of belonging in smallness. Now rememeber, we knew we wanted to open a shop even before our move, but as our experience in Maquon unfolded over the course of just one year, it became really apparent to me what I really wanted to create.
We needed to be the people that learned from small business of the past. We needed to be vulnerable enough to start with little, work hard, and then open our doors and hearts, inviting whoever needed to come. Whoever needed what we needed…to be apart of a community, and to have that place to go. We needed to become the people who are willing to create those small places for others, because at the end of the day, these are the places that matter in the everyday of our lives.
So seven months ago, almost to the day, we became those people. We are still learning, and we continue to seek out and return to the places and people who have become ‘home’ to us. As we continue our mom n pop journey, we aspire to inspire others to believe in creating positive spaces in our communities.
We will continue to post retroactive blogs that dig into the details of our business choices, tell stories of our experiences, and give how-to’s when it comes to opening your own mom n pop as we continue to learn from our friends who have more knowledge. Reach out, ask questions, and join us in the journey to the mom n pop culture we hope to create in our own town!
pictured below: The Filling Station in Bishop Hill, Illinois.