Our Hoard

The world is dense with opinion and reaction these days, passion and pain condensed into a soup too thick to swallow. I sift through the macro while spinning my wheels in the micro of our project here, wondering just how relevant it all is when considered in tandem. I’m thankful for the relatively safety of my universe and sad in a sort of panicked way that so many others can’t crawl into their own Amber Lanes and build around them the consciously constructed walls of worlds they crave to see every day. Walls that house decisions that we are allowed to make in isolation, walls that support our errors – that envelop our mistakes – that hide our secrets – that give us the amazing and ceaseless ability to get up again every day and putter on, in comparative safety. Free from judgment and prejudice.

I mean, we just build out a cafe every day. And we don’t often pause to think what would happen if this freedom was stripped from our hands, from the light in our dreams at night, from our very core understanding of who we are and what we’re doing.

But that’s what’s happening outside these walls. The stripping of freedom. The density of opinion and reaction comes from the challenge to allow conflicting freedoms space to exist without overlap. I sense it may not be possible and am, again, sad in a sort of panicked way.

I’ve been dragging my feet to begin this story but have finally found the words to start:

The Library.

Finally, a story to tell that doesn’t involve the Kitchen! But, where to begin?

This space exists on the second floor of Amber Lane, next to our commercial kitchen. In designing this room, we were looking to develop a space that would encourage long, luxurious use – hours of study, reading, games, meetings, group discussion, private consideration, and – most importantly – WiFi. The most feared word in the coffee industry. The bane of small business’ existence. The rabbit hole down which we tumble as we shout “table turn-over!” and “we sell coffee, not Internet!” and “but we need you to come in, so come back and use our WiFi!”.

It’s a serious struggle for many cafes – both in the Northampton area and around the country. How to tow this delicate line?

Fortunately, Fitz and I have strong opinions on the subject and a space that fits quite naturally into our Internet-inclinations. Why not have both?! The first floor is a space that encourages discourse and consumption, of art – dialogue – hand-crafted drinks and delectables… a sensory feast meant to be shared, puzzled over, and thoroughly enjoyed face-to-face with another individual or (at the very least) a moment of solitary peace in an otherwise crazy world. In other words, close up your laptop – put away (<gasp!>) your cell phone – and revel in the sheer simplicity of a conversation with another human being.

Ain’t it grand to be so social?

More on this in the coming months… But that picture is painted to say: If you’d like to stay all day, veg out with a good book, hunker down to write a third of your thesis in one stretch, and WiFi til your eyes pop out —> we have a room for you! And what a room it is. We didn’t need to do a thing to it to give it the energy it has (but we did…). The sloped ceilings and walls that subtly narrow (in a quaint way, not a “House of Leaves” the room is getting smaller sort of way!) give immediate peace and evoke a desire for time to stand still. Even with the glaring white walls, grey office carpet, and rubber entrance way treads (yikes!) of “Pre-Em-And-Fitz”, it was actually secretly drenched in sepia tones and musty smells that suggest lessons dipped in time certainly do stand up to the test.

But, we couldn’t leave the grey carpet, et al. Oh no! So tinker away we did. Over the next few weeks, I’m looking forward to re-counting the story of the Library. But, first, you must – as we did – deal with The Hoard.


Hoard, early March 2016.

During the first few months of this renovation we often referred to our “Pile Animal” and our frequent attempts to dismember this unruly beast. He has proven stubborn, exhaustively demanding, and incessantly hungry.


Same Hoard, another angle…

When we returned to Amber Lane at the beginning of March I had one stipulation: we must get a storage area. NOW. Fitz agreed but, primarily because there was literally no logical way to proceed without one. So, over the course of a couple of weeks, we slowly disemboweled the Queen of the Pile Animals – one car load at a time, all our collected trinkets, treasures, and cafe furniture trucked away from the Lane to a strange little rectangle of a room in a storage facility behind a hotel.

Pro Tip: complimentary coffee and tea in hotel lobby = the frequent (and only) perk of visiting our hotel/storage area. Getting our “money’s worth” every month. 😉

All to finally have space to THINK. To design. To build our Library.


Room to breathe.

Stay tuned!


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