The most important starting point for a rural community to reverse economic decline is to have a place where people can connect.
In our small Eastern Ontario town, that anchor was The Quirky Carrot.
It was a point of reference, a place where people of all ages and walks of life wanted to congregate.
Over the span of seven years, this quaint little café became an engine of community economic development, spawning shops, healthcare providers, even an art gallery.
#1 – It was central: at the corner of Main and Center Street, it was in the heart of the action. At the edge of the town square, up the street from the post office, where everyone went by to get their mail. So many people stopped in for their morning Java that the town was petitioned to put in a crosswalk!
#2 – It was creative: in case its name didn’t make it clear, this place was an original. The owner had developed recipes that vividly differentiated the café’s menu from the other diners in town. Most ingredients were local. There was kale salad on the menu before kale even became a thing. Its maple oat scones and Beau’s Beer brownies were legendary.
#3- It had SOUL: Location and food alone don’t make an establishment a place you love. It’s the people behind the counter that make the difference. And at the Quirky, Julia and her team knew your name. They asked how you were, and they were interested in your answer. They even gave you a hug when you needed it. It was our Cheers, like in the sitcom.
I worry for our little town now that the Quirky is no longer. Covid hit hard and the place sold, but the new owners were inexperienced, and it’s closed again. It feels as if our town’s lost its biggest cheerleader, its mascot. This story is probably similar to what’s happened in numerous small towns in this pandemic. Is there a champion out there who could revive the place? Could our beloved Quirky be community-owned and run? We don’t know. For now we can only dream of great cup of coffee and our favourite place to catch up with a friend.
Please share your experiences and thoughts below. Let’s learn from one another and celebrate each other’s successes.
Thanks for reading!