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.