Stories from the corner of 37th and Nicollet

Getting the Story Out

I’m always amazed at the amount of effort a plant will go through to be certain it is found and appreciated, and allowed to continue to live another year.  The sweet taste of a fruit, the color (and changing color of leaves) and the ability to cast scents to the winds offer great examples of how the natural world is one of the best storytellers around.


If we’re willing to listen to the story a bit differently, the activity of late summer might sound something like, “oh no, the sunlight hours are waning, the temperature is dropping, it’s time to assure that I’ve got seeds in the ground for next spring, hey birds, stop by for a tasty treat, I’m sure you’ve noticed the bright color I’m sporting as you fly over, just drop in, have a bite, and please, if you can, leave my seeds with your fertilizing deposit in a place that will provide great sun, soil, and moisture!”


This call is going out in multiple versions of reds and oranges and yellows and blues.  And all the while the receivers of this onslaught are in the midst of their own late summer, early fall conversation of “time to eat up, got to move on, got to get ready for a tough season ahead, lets find some high energy food for storing up reserves.”


I’ve been in the midst of story telling here at the café for many years, attempting to help share our great tastes, but also trying to present a particular color of sorts that sets my shop apart to the passersby looking for a place to “eat up.”   It has meant changing that color at times to be more attractive, or to tell a slightly different story, but it has always been about trying to tell a story.  My story has often been the “how did I get here?” or “why have I made these choices?” but mostly, “how’s it going?” 


I’ve had the opportunity lately to tell this story to people who are thinking about opening their own café in the years to come, and it has given me the chance to think about where I have been and what it took to get this point.   It is a different kind of story than the one I aim to tell each day about “so, what is happening here?”


This column has been one attempt to share my story, my adventures, and what I am learning along the way.  Every month, I try to organize my thoughts about how the story is unfolding, what colors to show off or what fruits to offer.  But rarely do I put all nine years together and try to tell “the whole story.”   Mostly, it’s because I’m in the middle of the story, one without an end, and not even one with obvious chapters.  But every now and then, I realize that one chapter has ended and new one has begun, and that story has shifted a tiny bit.  As I try to make sense of the longer plotline and development of characters, and the changing scenery, a story is indeed taking shape.  But much like the birds flying overhead, I tend to only notice the bright ripe fruits that quench an immediate need and don’t really have a clear picture of the long journey of past and future.


September 14, at Nicollet Open Streets, another kind of story will unfold.  It is a celebration of a “present” filled with a smooth, new roadway and sidewalks and curbs.  It is a sigh of relief for getting through the “Nicollet Pothole” and endless summers of road construction.  It is also the recognition of a long history of Nicollet Avenue as one of the main streets in Minneapolis.  It is an investment of time and energy of many businesses, organizations, and people that points to a hope for continued growth and vitality along this neighborhood corridor.  And it will be a time to share stories. 


At the corner of 37th and Nicollet, I’ll be setting up a stage for storytelling and sharing poems. Throughout the day we’ll offer anyone who has a story to tell (and a desire to share it) to step onto the stage and say ‘”listen to this – I’ve got something to say!”  For those who’d prefer to present their story in a different form, we’ll set out chalk for sharing a poem or statement or story along the sidewalk or in the middle of Nicollet Avenue.  We also will help anyone take their story on the road by decorating bikes with story streamers or poetry cards that, with every click of a spoke, will be saying “listen-to-this-story-!”


We are a stronger community because of the stories we share. We notice our weak spots when a story of past struggles finally surfaces and is told.  We grow stronger as we learn new stories.  And if we are willing to stop for a minute or two and listen, we may find ourselves and our own story slightly changed, the scenery shifted, and a new fruit brought into view.  May we draw energy from the stories we tell and from the stories we hear as we walk this path together.