My third place.

The new year means new list-making, and one of the lists I've been putting together is a list of subjects I want to write about/scrapbook in the coming year.

One item that's been on my mental version of this list for a long time is to put together a mini-album of people, places, and things I love about my town. In the ten years that I've lived here, Charleston has become home to me. Slowly, but surely, this area has grown on me. It's so very like my hometown, and yet so very different at the same time.

One of the places/people that will definitely be documented in this album is JAC, our local coffee shop. It holds a special place in my heart not only for all the delicious chai I've consumed there, but also for the conversations with friends and work/procrastination I've accomplished there. It's a nice place to sit and grade papers. Eliot likes to get a smoothie and sit at the game table with me playing checkers. He always wins, but that's because he cheats wildly and shamelessly. 

Please pardon the extremely blurry, craptacular quality of these photos, taken with my phone. (A new camera is on my wishlist for 2011.)

Possibly my favorite thing about JAC, though, is the people. From my favorite baristas to the owners, to the other regulars, everyone in this place is so friendly. It really does feel like a second home. Or third, as they describe it: "Home is your first place. Work/School is your second place. Make JAC your third place." Everyone always greets you with a friendly "hello;" no one ever pressures you to get the heck out even if you've been sitting there buying nothing forever. Just writing about it is making me want coffee. Or, more likely, pumpkin or candy cane chai. MMMmmm.

My best JAC experience actually occurred on a day when I didn't even make a purchase. JAC is just off the town square, which surrounds the county courthouse. On the day of my divorce proceedings, I pulled up and parked my car, but was dreading going inside the building. I was already crying, and a quick foraging of my purse and glove compartment for tissues or napkins came up utterly empty. I gazed out my windshield trying to pull myself together, and I looked up at JAC just down the street. I thought, "Sure. I'll run in there to the bathroom and get myself together before I go into the courthouse. They're nice people; they aren't going to mind if I use their restroom." Not only did the owners of JAC not mind that I'd ducked in only to use their restroom, but they also noticed my distress and asked me if I was okay. Not an "Are you okay?" that actually translates to, "What the hell is wrong with you, and why are you bringing your crazy in here?" but rather a genuinely concerned, waiting to listen, "Are you okay?" The overshare being an integral part of my personality, I blubbered something about my divorce and not wanting to go into the courthouse. Dano and Vicki comforted me like we were all old friends, even though I'd only recently started coming into their place regularly. I got hugs and reassurances from them, as well as the little bit of support I needed to gather my strength and go about my business.

That's why I keep going back. I can get a four dollar cup of coffee from Starbucks and their convenient drive-thru window, but JAC gives me so much more. Acknowledgment that I'm a person, not just a customer. Maybe not everyone looking for a caffeine pick-me-up needs that kind of extra validation, but come on? Have you met me? LOL.

Thank you Dano and Vicki, for caring, and Meghan and Kristin, for being the best baristas around! :) 


Anonymous said...

Rachael you have blessed us with your time spent at JAC and we are proud to be your friends and family.
God bless you and thanks for the kind words.

Meghan said...

It makes me so happy to see you come in when I'm working! Especially when you're wearing a fabulous shirt from Grammy. You are wonderful.

designhead | stacia said...

Lovely. Dan and Vicki are terrific people. I know Meghan loves seeing you there...esp. in a Grammy shirt. ;^)

factorygirlashli said...

What a sweet post! I love being a barista at JAC.... I've been a barista at other places and this is the first place I don't dread going into work every single day.

We really love having customers like you, Rachel! You make the job so much easier.