Daily writing prompt
If you were going to open up a shop, what would you sell?

Yesterday my wife and I went on a frolicking detour. Our trip was part of our effort to visit towns and cities within an hour’s drive that we had not been to. It’s interesting to see how our older New England industrial cities have reimagined their downtowns after the industries that developed them disappeared. There is lots of fine architecture and attractive city design. But creating a viable second act that attracts residents and visitors can be challenging. It requires a willingness to reimagine your civic space, a bit of guile, and economic wherewithal.

I like poking into shops and seeing how the buyers work to keep their offerings unique and their business formulas fresh. But I especially like looking at public art in these cities.

We found a neat little coffee shop and bookstore combined with public art at Cat Alley in Manchester, New Hampshire. The true treat was how local artists had decorated the alley with a series of cat-themed murals.

One might suspect that If I owned a shop, it would sell carvings, but a shop like the one we visited would be more like it. They had an extensive children’s area with programs, carefully curated books, a neat little cafe area, and an interesting gift section. I can’t imagine it would be easy for a manager to juggle all the activities, but I, the old Folkie I am, would add evening folk performers and poetry readings at the cafe.

Hey! What can I say once a coffeehouse performer…well you know how it goes. Remember to toss some green into the basket for the guitarist, man.

8 Replies to “Detour”

  1. Charming! Why ARE they painting over the cats in Cat Alley? I know “important people” many times bow to the complaints of a few (if this is why), missing the value of quirky or amusing things that just happen within their purview. I’d enjoy visiting their city to muse about the clever people of their city and how they express themselves in this way.

    I can give you a local example here: Carhenge. When it first went up the State of Nebraska called it a junkyard and that it needed to meet certain standards that hid it from the view of people driving by or be taken down. The City of Alliance harumphed about it because it is within the use code territory of the town and they called it not coded for whatever the hell it was, but for agriculture.

    After lots of posturing by “important people” and lots of public support, the state backed down in the mess was painted on color – grey it turns out – and the city fathers came around when Carhenge started diverting tourists to our town, leaving tourist dollars.

    Other people featured it in an independent movie (“Omaha the movie”) and commercials (Nissan). It made a book on quirky tourist destinies in America. International guests stopped by and left fun notes about the experience. (The Englishman who wrote, “There’s one like it in England!” LOL!)

    Then, the sponsors of the site realized it was a money hole they couldn’t fund so they put it up for sale. After little interest in it, the “important people” of City of Alliance bought it and took it over, making it a selling point in city promotions. The State of Nebraska? They figured it out, too, realizing there are lots of people with quirky senses of humor in the world, and many stop bvy to check it out.

    The Cat Alley strikes me as something fun to view when in that area. I mean, if my cat blog can attract 2654 subscribers on every continent except Antarctica, there must be multiples of that who’d stop by Manchester to see this public tribute to kitty cats! There’s a lot more to see, as you know, in that part of America besides the changing leaves!

    1. You are right. I’ve started planning a post of all the quirks and clever public art I’ve seen the past two years in my section of New England. But cats! After all Doug the internet was invented for cats…just ask Andy!

      1. LOL! I had to learn Catanese to keep in touch with him.

        As for the quirks and public art, that’s a good study for an anthropologist, if it hasn’t been done yet.

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