I peel left into the Nature’s Paradise drive way and tuck my bike inside the earthy-scented doorway. I give a quick wave to Tasha and head to clock in. As I move, I catch a whiff of the my staff shirt; a combination of fresh air and lavender-musk dryer sheets, fresh from last night’s session at the laundromat.
The mighty chunk of the timestamp ensues, and I jaunt my way to join Tasha behind the counter.
The store is as crisp as my shirt; the smells of new whole-bean coffee and local honey waft around me from the bulk foods section. The radio underneath the illuminated OPEN sign is detailing the beginning of the K-State football game against North Carolina’s 49ers, the husky voice of the announcer raising in pitch and excitement at each play.
It has been an age since I’ve gotten to listen to a game on a radio; first, from being in Europe for the past year, and second from the relatively “archaic” medium of radio.
This harkens me back to days of bouncing along in the family jeep on some sunny Saturday mid-morning adventure, border collie on my lap, my hair whipping around me. It’s a good memory for a good day.
The door jingles open and a burly man with tan skin and a bushy moustache enters, his small-boned flannel-clad wife behind him, stopping to glance at a flyer advertising local eggs.
“Hey there, Tash!” He says, his moustache bouncing up and down at each syllable. He comes over to me and introduces himself as just a “constant loyal customer in this here store!”, and we quickly and authentically become friends.
We spend the next half hour chatting with the couple, showing them some new products, giving tips and advice on “what worked for Jan’s ulcer”. They check out and leave with a hearty promise to, “see y’all later!”, and “nice meetin’ ya!”.
Moments later another couple come in; older this time, with sincere wide-stretching smiles.
“Hello there, ladies! Will or Carol in today?” They ask.
Carol and her husband own Nature’s Paradise and Will, their son, is the manager and health-and-nutrition-advice-giving expert.
Of course they know the owners. Most people who come into the store do, because it’s that kind of store in that kind of town. Where everyone is friends with everyone, and if they don’t know you, that’s too much dissonance to handle.
The shift passes quickly, featuring a full 45-minute conversation over essential oils and face scrubs with an elementary school teacher, a detailed conversation about coconut oil, a number of opportunities to help someone pick out a good coffee, and a plethora of “Hmm….good question, lemme ask Tasha”s to go around.
The mighty chunk of the timestamp signals an end to the shift, and I hop on my bike to head off downtown.
And here is the part where I am firmly convinced that Emporia is Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls:
The entire Main Street is blocked off, and in lieu of traffic or parking there are hundreds of stalls set up framing the street. Stands for flea market items, kettle-popped popcorn, boutique goodies, coffee, gymnastics bake sales, farmer’s market veggies, breakfast food trucks; taco stands, snow cone stalls, charity stalls, book sales.
This is the Emporia Annual Great American Market.
Halfway down the street someone has set up about thirty hay bales, all directed towards a trio of flannel-clad, heavily mustached banjo-wielding men. Children, aunts, grandfathers, cousins, identical twins, fathers…the whole family wakes up and down the stalls hand in hand, giving waves and “howdy!”s to the stall owners and to each other.
Because of course they know each other. The people here in Emporia do, because it’s that kind of town.
I half expected to be met by Lorelai or Luke; I definitely saw my fair share of individuals who could play the part.
Even now as I sit at the garden table outside of Java Cat, typing up this post and sipping espresso, a man with bright blue eyes rimmed in wrinkles has passed me and waved goodnaturedly.
Who are you? is never asked here. Because it’s that kind of town.
Peace and Blessings,