Where Conversation Resumes: Calders Coffee Cafe
Just what the doctor ordered: Calders Coffee Cafe serves up palate-pleasing beverages, comfort food that soothes something deep inside, and healthy doses of conversation. It’s located at 384 Main Street in Highlands.
You’re probably a lot like me when it comes to tumbling out of the far end of this long, sad pandemic – a bit dazed, tripwire-sensitive to a random cough or a sudden sneeze, and hungry, so hungry, for conversations with friends and out-of-the-blue people just passing by.
Languid conversations and quick, unexpected exchanges – these are the social lubricants that have made life on the Plateau not simply bearable, but sweet, and joyful, and marked with a touch of strange. They’re a gift that we freely share with one another and we bequest it upon visitors without hesitation.
Don’t believe me? Recall the last time you stopped by Highlands Post Office to mail a package. Or visited Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library to check out a DVD for the night. Or went to a kids’ soccer game at Zachary Park.
I’ll bet you a half-dozen cupcakes that you became enmeshed in a conversation that enlightened or entertained or shocked you in some way.
Of course! That’s the way it’s always been!
The McKees and the Alleys and the McCalls and the Brysons set the standard for welcoming visitors and newcomers.
And folks gathered at The Mountaineer, and Tommy’s, and Helen’s Barn, and Bill’s Soda Shop, and Evan Pell’s General Store, and they’d share a meal or a cup of coffee or a pour of peach bounce (I’m looking at you, Helen’s Barn), and they’d chat, and gossip, and talk big, and whisper notions.
What a show! And everyone was invited!
(By the way, if you’re a resident and you don’t know what I’m talking about and proclaim that you’ve never been part of the conversation, then Shame on You! Open your ears and your eyes and your mind and your heart! It’s been this way since the Cherokee and their Sacred Fires – you may not receive a formal invitation, but you’re always welcome to join in the talk.
But we went silent in March 2020. We and the country and the world.
Taking the place of those earnest chats and circular chautauquas was silence and an undercurrent of unease, even when we were following all the correct practices and procedures.
Which brings us to Calders Coffee Cafe, where the conversation has resumed in all its cheerful, unpredictable glory.
I visited on an ordinary Tuesday morning and stayed for a little over an hour.
Over the course of this visit, I saw eight friends for the first time since Before-Covid, learned of the arrival of three grandchildren, one divorce, two deaths, and one romance that not only survived but grew stronger over the course of the last year, and heard the Funniest Riddle in the Western World: “Why was Cinderella such a lousy baseball player?” “She had a Pumpkin for a Coach!”
(My son Alex brought that one home from Mrs. Chalker’s Great Beginnings Class at Highlands School 27 years ago. What’s the life cycle of kids’ jokes and riddles: Do they set out across the world at the speed of laughter, arriving home after decades of service; or do they lie dormant like a hibernating Black Bear, waiting years for a sunny spring morning when they can startle and delight once more?)
Calders has preserved and revived something precious and vital that I’d feared had departed some time in the last 14 months.
Of course, this is all enhanced by Calders’ Bill of Fare, which, naturally, boasts organically-grown, ethically-sourced Java (that includes the signature Calders Vibe); Teas; Hot Chocolates (Milk and Dark – both wonderful, the Dark transcendent), Iced Drinks, and Frozen Beverages.
Let me spotlight the Shot in the Dark that I enjoyed on this visit: This is a smooth cup of java laced with a double shot of espresso. Consume the entire cup and you’ll be inspired/compelled to A) Write an opera; B) Develop an innovative hair style for yourself and your pet (and begin trimming it into existence right there); or C) Track down that Golden Person who never knew you existed in high school and proclaim to him/her that he/she made the biggest mistake of their life when they let you get away.
On the food side of the equation, there are Sandwiches (croissant-bunned, english-muffined, and biscuited), pastries (including divine Cinnamon Rolls), and pretzels.
All of them facilitate the process of rumination and conversation, but let me single out two: New Yorker Bagels (that are actually made in the Big Apple) and Welsh Cakes, light and fluffy and as close to an emotional hug as my Anglophile Sweetie is apt to get until we’ve achieved some form of herd immunity.
Trust me, arm yourself with one of these savories and a cuppa of something brewed up at Calders and you’ll find the courage to fully embrace this strange season and, this is most important, rediscover the sublime joys of the Plateau’s favorite pastime.
Calders Coffee is located at 384 Main Street in Highlands. You can order online at calderscoffeecafe.com or call (828) 526-200-9308. But really, it’s best if you stop in and chat.