“This is my favorite song by my favorite band,” I said, as we stepped into the coffee shop and the telltale whistling that began Noah & the Whale’s song 5 Year’s Time started playing overhead. Visiting a brand new, not-Starbucks coffee shop is always an exciting experience. There’s the chance they won’t have any drinks you’re familiar with, or maybe their menus are all in French, or maybe there are only two tiny tables already taken up by regulars who glare at you over their full mugs.
Solar Roast Coffee is on the corner of 3rd and Main, and it’s just a little too far away to bike or walk and I wished I lived in one of the apartments directly across the street. Like you’d expect from the name, sunshine floods the roomy space inside. Outside, it smelled like coffee and fall. I dropped my bag into one of two booths and smacked my psych textbook on the attached table. The barista handed me my drip brew, room for cream, and I navigated the puzzle of tables to the cream station then back to my booth.
A familiar song started playing. I tilted my head to the side and threw my eyes up to the ceiling and mumbled under my breath, as if that would help me remember what song this was. Then came the typical aha moment, as I realized it was The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance. Vampire Weekend is always good, particularly on a fall day that felt more special than anything else.
Psychology homework is hard to focus on at the best of times, but in a new place with so many details to notice while I had the chance, it was hard to keep my eyes on the page long enough to absorb the information.
Starbucks is good in its consistency. It’s nice to know that whether I’m in Amman or Denver, I can find a Starbucks with the same drinks. That's comforting.
Solar Roast was different though in a refreshing way that made me want to come back again and again. The windowsill that was the length of two booths was full of potted plants, the leaves and flowers growing out past the windowsill itself and touching gently onto our table. The far wall was painted with a sunrise, or a sunset maybe, like what a little kid would draw with a crayon gripped tight in her fist, the rays of sun stretching out from the bottom center and gradually expanding. A black leather couch was pushed up against that same wall, next to the fireplace that was empty then, but I imagine in the winter they light it. There was a potted cactus resting against a pillar -"Every Valentine's she sends me a potted cactus. It's like, thanks a heap, coyote ugly, this cactus gram stings even worse than your abandonment."- and it was a good reminder that Pueblo is almost the desert.
The menu was hanging from the ceiling, illustrated with pictures and it was clearly separated by the different types of drinks. "Hey," I gestured to the sign, "next time I come here I want to try the Pueblo Mocha. It has hot chili peppers in it." My dad laughed.
The light was warm. When I say warm, it's hard to describe what I really mean. What I mean is this: the walls were all painted yellow, and there were trees in the courtyard area outside that had bright gold leaves falling and blowing up against the windows, and it was just past noon so the sun was still bright but not as harsh as in the very middle of the day, and all these things blended together until it was like the entire coffee shop was painted with an acrylic color called "light" and this light smudged across the golden walls until the light itself made everything feel warm and welcoming.
The baristas knew every other customer by name, their faces lighting up with a cheery "hello!" whenever the door opened and someone new walked in. This is what I want. I want to be a regular in a place where someone knows my name. I want to have a drink that I order every time, and I want to surprise them when I deviate from my normal. I want to claim the black couch as my own on winter evenings, and spread my homework and my laptop across the table and smile at the new kid when she walks in, her eyes shifting from side to side as she takes in this indie coffee shop that's far different from the Starbucks she's used to.