Nuzzle bees. That’s what we called them. As I sit here recalling the first time Casey shyly took me to his favorite “spot” in Galesburg, those yellow, porcelain salt and pepper shakers are an image burned into my mind- a tiny feature of the decor that reflects its overall eclectic appeal. What I didn’t realize at the time was that although Casey loves the food at Q’s Cafe, he really brought me there to meet Annette- and Walt too of course.
He was getting ready to do a second attempt at Ragbrai, a biking tour across the state of Iowa, and Annette McAllister was on his team. After a few minutes of conversation, I quickly realized Annette had adopted Casey into her fold of those that she loved- and I realized over time that this fold was wide, but completely true and authentic. Annette and her capacity to love, I had the incredible opportunity to learn over time, was inexhaustible- is still inexhaustible.
Conversation quickly turned to Ragbrai plans, as Walt and Annette left their posts to come and join us at our table. We discussed logistics and pick-ups, as Casey and Annette excitedly exchanged glances over their upcoming adventure. Casey and I hadn’t been dating long- in fact, I can’t remember if we were officially “dating” or not- but it was that conversation that made me feel at home in Casey’s life, and ultimately, at home in Galesburg. Annette and Walt’s openness to me and immediate acceptance, along with a free first-timer brownie, felt like an embrace. Subconsciously, I think I set my sights on Galesburg at that moment.
What I’ve come to understand is that I am not alone in my experiences in Q’s Cafe, and my story is not unique. Walt and Annette’s “house” on Main St. is the place where community is born- a place where family grows and roots deepen. From the incredible comfort food, freshly baked bread, “love in a bowl” (or homemade chicken noodle soup), and brownies that make you remember what happiness feels like to the casual conversation that those who sidle up to the bar have come to love and appreciate, Q’s Cafe is a place where community is made- they are to Galesburg like the hearth of a home.
What I don’t think Walt and Annette realize is that they embody what many small business owners have to strive to be; accepting, loving, generous and truly present with their customers. In a sense, they’ve become much more than a Mom n Pop cafe on Main, they’ve become our Community Center- the place where we gather, and where everyone and anyone, no matter who you are, is invited to the table. Chess club, parties, campaigns to better the community, events marked with musical collaborations and laughter, COG meetings, and I’m sure the list goes on and on, have seen their conception and realization in the formation of eclectic groups of people who have gone on to become lifelong friends.
When we opened our own business down the street, Walt and Annette were our cheerleaders, our patrons, and some of our first customers. Their excitement for us was like that of parents; we felt, once again, adopted into their fold in a new way; as fellow champions in the cause to create a place where people had authentic experiences marked by delicious food, and most of all, where they felt a part of our community. Without them, without their guidance and their example, I’m not so sure GloBar would be alive today. We can only hope that we can carry on the traditions that Q’s Cafe has truly begun in our town; small business that cares, and people who love. They were truly the first- born out of a time when people in Galesburg needed hope, when they needed an embrace, Q’s Cafe came to the rescue. Opening in a time of economic uncertainty, the legacy of Q’s Cafe will always be that of rising strong in a time of despair, and truly paving the way to a movement of hope, where small business is still alive and well, and people aren’t giving up on making Galesburg a place that they want to not only survive, but thrive.
So let’s tip our hats and lift our glasses to Walt and Annette McAllister who truly embody the spirit of what makes the heart of a community strong; generosity, love, and some damn good food.