Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hanging out on Union Street

It is Tuesday afternoon so I am in downtown Concord. In the last two weeks I have gotten reacquainted with Union Street after a hiatus of a couple of years. Back then, Jonathan was involved in plays at the Old Courthouse Theatre on Spring Street. But then he went away to college and no one else was interested in drama for awhile so I didn’t have much occasion to visit Union Street. But now, Matthew and Joel are taking part in the Bee Creative Homeschool Drama class so I get to spend every Tuesday afternoon up here. Since I last spent any time on Union Street there are some great additions to the downtown and I am happy to say that there is a plenty to keep me happily busy for two or three hours while my boys practice lines, block scenes, and act!

My favorite spot on Union Street is the Main branch of the Cabarrus County Library. I love this old library.

I love the bronze sculpture out front of two children sitting back to back reading. I love the reading chairs at the entrance in front of the ample magazine and newspaper racks. I love the bulletin board kiosk at the front that tells me about what’s happening in Concord – the local book club, the upcoming quiz bowl, a visiting musician.

I love to use the clicky old computers to access the catalog as I search for homeschool resources. Today I was looking for chemistry “living books” and I had three wonderful finds. I always find things I like at the Concord library because they seem to keep more of their old books than other libraries around here. . I love the oversize book collection where I’ve been finding wonderful helps for our study of early American artists.

I love the Quiet Zone signs that remind me that this is a place where the ring of cell phones, loud voices, and disruptive behavior are not allowed because in the library we are supposed to be considerate of others. For some reason, in the library, people really are. You know I’ve never heard a librarian here ask someone to be quiet or to stop their disruptive behavior. It doesn’t happen! Even the children seem to walk slower and understand that they are supposed to use “inside voices.”

I love the children’s room upstairs and the gallery spot where children’s art is exhibited. I love the books on tape, the little bitty chairs, the short table with card catalog computers for kids.

I love the helpful librarian at the front desk with the soft Southern accent who never makes me feel like a criminal when I have an overdue fine. I love the stern faced reference librarian who always has an answer.

I love the mixture of people that frequent the library – young, old, rich, poor, black, white, brown, homeless people and students, grandmothers and professional people. What a diverse collection of folks browsing the shelves, using the computers, studying, or sitting quietly reading.

Did I say I love the library? Joel loves the library, too. One time he asked me if we could come up and stay at the library all day. What a great idea. We haven’t done it yet, but maybe one Tuesday, that’s just what we’ll do.

The nice thing is that there are now some great little places to go for food and drink if you are ready for a break from the library. So far, I’ve visited two of them.

Ellie’s Coffee Shop and Argentinian Pastries is a wonderful little coffee shop a block and a half from the library, next to one of Union Street’s several antique stores and across from Baucom Shoes and Kitty City. The owners, mom, Rosanna, and daughter, Ellie, are originally from Argentina, as you might guess from the name. They opened the coffee shop about a year ago, and according to Ellie, they’re doing pretty well so far. I hope the trend continues. This is not Starbucks, this is not Caribou. This is a coffee shop with its own unique character. The display case at the counter is full of Argentinian pastries that Rosanna bakes fresh every morning. They’re all about a dollar or less and include things like shortbread filled with dulce de leche (thickened caramelized milk), mini quince pies, a variety of meringues, and other goodies. Latin music plays in the background. The walls are decorated with photographs and artwork from local artists and burlap coffee bags hang from the ceiling behind the counter. Two cushy, sort of tattered sofas sit angled in front of the window looking out on Union Street passersby, old store fronts, and twinkly-lit trees. There are backgammon and chess sets on the coffee tables and even a guitar in the corner. I love this place. Ellie is very sweet and her smile lights up her face. She remembered Joel and me when we came in this afternoon for hot chocolate and said, “Oh, yes, you can come here on Tuesdays.” I love to go places where people remember their customers!

There is another fun place that I’ve visited called Two Leaves and a Bud. It is advertised as “an extraordinary tea shop” and the owners certainly know their tea. They brew up your choice (and there are over 70 to choose from) right when you order and serve it in a delicate cup with saucer or a mug – your choice. They also have pastries, biscotti, and other food, but I haven’t eaten anything there yet. For someone who loves good tea, it is a pleasure to describe the type of tea I like and hear Lina say, “Oh, I think you’d like the Estate Assam tea…” And I did. I’ll visit Two Leaves again sometime, though it’s not as comfy a place to sit as Ellies.

There are a few other spots on Union Street worth noting…but I’m out of time for now. I’ve got to finish my hot chocolate before it’s time to pick Matthew up…(oh, he’s staying for a second class now because he was asked to take a part in another play, so that means my afternoon in Concord has stretched even longer). But that means I'll get to explore a bit more and in the spring, which will be here before we know it, there is Memorial Garden...I can't wait.


Melanie said...

You have such a lovely tone to your writing. I can almost feel the quietness of the library and hear the latin music playing at Ellies. I love the description of the tea room; we have one here in Johnson City called "Miss Melanie's Tea Room" which I have a gift certificate for and I can't wait to taste Miss Melanie's tea!

I love Memorial Garden. I'm looking forward to your spring time posts about the roses, pansies, and other colorful friends that will enjoy your Tuesday afternoon company. I walked through the garden with my camera one day and was awed by the peaceful beauty I saw through the camera lense. I always see more detail when I look at something through a camera. Anyway...I loved your post! I'm eager to hear more about your Tuesday vetures.

Beth said...

Thanks, Melanie. We are hoping to get a better camera soon so I can enjoy taking more pictures. We're still using the first digital camera we bought before we went to Cameroon back in 2001. They've gotten lots better since then!

Kelly said...

Thanks for posting the name of the tea place...I had forgotten about that one....

Amber Benton said...

Somedays I miss living at the corner of Spring and Wiltshire one block from Union and being able to ride my bike to the library and to get coffee. I imagine how nice it would be to pile the boys on their bikes and into the stroller and take the afternoon to walk to the library and get an ice cream cone on the way home.

Jen Unsell said...

This sounds like a beautiful library Beth! I need to get up their to visit it sometime soon!