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The café: Where minds meet

Posted on 11.06.2013

We all love the Perk, so this is not a slam. But we need somewhere else, somewhere near campus but not on it. We need a café.

For centuries, the café has been a place for pontification, debate and all sorts of intellectual discourse among a plethora of people. In the Ottoman Empire, people gathered to read poetry, talk and drink their thick Turkish coffee. In France, writers and thinkers from Voltaire and Jean-Paul Sartre to expatriate Lost Generation writers such as James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway met to debate their craft and culture. (On a side note, Voltaire supposedly drank 50 cups of coffee a day—hopefully not at Starbucks’ prices.)

And cafés are not just for intellectuals. Stupid people can meet there, too. I mean, that happens in every episode of “Friends.”

These days, local cafés are places where you might find a nonprofit convening a board meeting or a photographer hosting a gallery showing. Cafés are more than a highbrow locale where some singer-songwriter’s passionate burst into the last chorus is drowned out by a grumbling blender.

Doug Litsey, owner of Calvin Fletcher Coffee Co., said that his business creates a community forum. Calvin Fletcher’s is a nonprofit café just north of Fountain Square, and according to Litsey, it is a place where businesses can hold meetings, friends can meet up and strangers can meet new people.

“I absolutely do feel like it has met a huge need in the community to have a place where they can feel a part and feel loved,” he said.

According to Litsey, he is more than a business owner. He is a friend and neighbor to his customers.

“I guess I view my role as somebody who’s very involved in the community, because so many people from the community come in, and because we live in the community,” he said.

Unfortunately for the University of Indianapolis campus community, Calvin Fletcher’s is not a place you can just pop into every day. They are amazing at what they do and how they serve their community, but we need a place that serves the University Heights neighborhood as well.

If you still think that I am insulting the Perk, I want you to think about this: do people in our community ever pull into the university and struggle to find parking so they can walk into the building just to order a cup of coffee? I haven’t seen it.

However, a more neutral space—close enough for students to walk to but far enough for others to feel comfortable stopping there—is what we need. We need a place where students can go off campus, so they do not get tired of being here.

But we do not need a new Starbucks. We need a place that is community-driven, not profit-driven. We need a place in which people who live here feel like they are invested, like the That 50’s Place diner just down the street.

Here’s the kicker: we cannot pass this off to the administration. This needs to come from us as part of the community, not just part of the university. We need students, faculty and staff to work with community leaders and business people invested in the South Side.

If we really want the university to be an anchor for the community, then we need to become links in the chain that ties the two together and prevents them from drifting apart.



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