On my path in life I find myself on back and country roads, highways and byways, traveling through big cities and often landing, if only for a moment, in small towns across the United States. The diversity, arts, music, and culture of the big cities lure me in while my heart pines for the sense of community that can sometimes be easily found in small towns.
Recently I stumbled upon a coffee shop in a small town in north-central Washington, called Salmon Creek Coffee Company. This coffee shop occupies a prime retail space in Okanogan – a corner building on the main street with outdoor seating space, many windows that are large, and across from Rawson’s, a very large and well-established outdoor and Western clothing store.
My first visit to Salmon Creek (SCCC) provided exactly what I needed – a warm and colorful space, wi-fi, excellent music in the background, and a barista who directed me to Twisp, a little artsy ski community up in the mountains for a mini-day trip.
I enjoyed it so much that I decided to return a couple of days later and was fortunate enough to meet the owner, Melanie. By then the coffee shop had been recommended to me by a couple of people, one being a business owner who encouraged me to check out the live music there on Thursday nights from 6 – 7 pm. He told me there would be a great turnout by the community.
Well, it was Thursday night, so I made plans of my return and got there a little early. I set up my laptop, ordered a Chai Latte, and buried myself in Facebook and emails. Around 5 pm, Lonnie and Teresa from Sawtooth Studio showed up to set up the sound system and the two artists arrived shortly after. I introduced myself to Lonnie, per the instructions of the business owner and asked him a few questions about the music. I found that he and Teresa book the artists who play for tips and a meal. Lonnie and Teresa do all the organizing without compensation, and told me the only way the music is promoted is through word-of-mouth and the table tents at the coffee shop. My expectations weren’t that great to see a large turnout from the community, but I was excited to hear the two artists play.
My camera and Flip Video were in my car, so I brought them in and set up the video recording on my tripod. Both Melanie and Lonnie assured me that the musicians wouldn’t care. By 6 pm the music began with Kyle playing his didgeridoo, then the other musician performing a song he wrote about the Vietnam war. They were both moving. After quite a few songs, I decided to move to the counter and get a few photos of the crowd. As I turned around, I was surprised to find that there was quite a large crowd in the coffee shop. In fact, it was standing room only. The man who sent me there was right – I saw community in this coffee shop.
In addition to Melanie’s dedication to music, she showcases work by local artists which include mugs and plates made by the high school art students. Her food is made fresh daily by The Breadline in Omak, and the Salmon Creek Coffee Company is a pick-up stop for dry cleaning by the Gabby Cabby, which makes weekly runs to Wenatchee. She features Blue Star Coffee from a roaster in Twisp, which of course, is organic. There are gluten free sodas, artisan chocolates, and caramel corn made by the Little River Candy Co. in Wenatchee. In addition to their coffee drinks, the SCC has a selection of local wines by the Lost River Winery in Mazama and beer from both the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop and the Methow Valley Brewery in Twisp.
Melanie is dedicated to not only serving coffee drinks to her customers, but her investment in local businesses and artists proves that she’s dedicated to serving her community as well. So, does the community show up at Melanie’s Coffee Shop or did Melanie show up for the community?
Oh, she also has just a few earrings made by a local artist – herself!
The Salmon Creek Coffee Company is located at 134 South 2nd Ave, Okanogan, WA 98840 and the phone number is 509.826.1533. They are open Monday – Wednesday, 7 am – 5 pm, Thursday from 7 am – 7 pm with live music 6-7 pm, Friday 7 am – 5 pm, Saturday 9 am – 7 pm, and Sunday 10 am – 2 pm.