The relationship between a writer and where he/she writes tends to be integral to the craft. So when I learned that Caribou Coffee was shutting down operations in all of its stores outside eight states, leaving 85 locations to reopen as Peet’s Coffee, I found myself at a profound and unexpected loss. I’d never harbored an immense love for the brand outside of the single location I spent countless hours studying, researching, writing, and procrastinating, but the store on 3645 N. High Street hid a throbbing heart that pumped more than caffeine and bottled coconut water underneath its counter.
Caribou was where I shut off the world after moving to Columbus from New York City to impulsively get an MBA. It’s where I met a barista who I fell in love with for two years and embarked on countless wayward adventures. It’s where many Caribou staff listened to me vent and ramble after that relationship completely imploded. It’s where I interviewed, transcribed, and wrote a feature on Jane Levy and The Evil Dead remake in the course of 24 hours on Easter before succumbing to an intense fever. (It’s also where I transcribed and wrote every other article that’s been published under my name in the last three years). It’s where I traded and discussed obscure Xbox games with Kyle, the assistant manager. It’s where Kyle’s wife, Elizabeth, and I discussed the differences between burlesque and stripping until an elderly woman announced that she was “learning so very much,” though I’m not convinced she wasn’t being completely earnest. It’s where I joined various employees and managers before going drinking in The Short North to have conversations that usually don’t occur between coffee shop workers and people who go to coffee shops. It was a very, very good place with very, very good people.
The staff invited me to its final shift, in which we cleared the store out before grabbing beers. It was sad and oddly emotional. I doubt many store closings resonate like this one did; there were tears, hugs, and a bittersweet taste that had a faint Ethiopian-blend quality to it. Though the store will reopen next month under a new name with a vaguely different product, many of the same faces will remain behind the counter. It’s an ingenious move on Peet’s behalf; that location did tremendous business and it’s specifically because its manager, Dave Haas, built a thriving, social hub that spun beautifully around its ingrained neighborhood. Brands are built by people who know how to build communities. I’ll be back to visit this new incarnation, but I doubt I’ll be in Columbus long. Here’s to a store where a third place became a home.