So, we are in Alpine, TX, as I mentioned in my last post. We went to an amazing coffee shop here in town called Cedar Coffee Supply.
Quick Rundown of Cedar Coffee Supply:
Andrew and his wife focus on providing amazing coffee patiently and well. We spent 2 hours in their quaint seating area. I watched as Andrew happily served every single client with the same passion and quality service as he did a close friend. But, in the first 5 minutes in the shop I could tell that this was what almost every eclectic boutique coffee shop in Austin, or any other big city, would like to be able to be…were they not inundated with competition and focusing on the bottom line.
Expansion & Keeping Pace
I got into a conversation with the owner of the shop and a couple of the locals, as I tend to do. We were talking about the changing social landscape of Alpine, Marfa, Terlingua, and the other surrounding towns. We talked about how high the living costs had become in the past couple of years. This has happened, according to them, because many transplants from other Texas cities and elsewhere have started descending on this region as a go to retreat and retirement spot. They were included in that demographic.
This influx of people, like in many “well kept secret” cultural landmine locations, was making the economic aspect of the small towns change very rapidly. Especially in Alpine, because it is the most functional community of the region. Functional in that in other cities like Marfa and Terlingua, the businesses and institutions operate on very limited and varied schedules. So, Alpine remains the sort of Mecca for people looking to create a life in this area of Texas. Investors have already been coming in for a good while and marketing this once very sleepy eclectic region to outsiders who find that sort of vibe particularly appealing.
Side Note: They have stickers, namely one that was transfixed to the Food Shark food truck in Marfa, TX that say “Keep Austin There”…so for all of us Austinites continuously complaining about our transplant problem, know that some of us have caused the same sort of issue elsewhere. It’s called change.
The Observant Local
One of the locals, named Wendell, was a transplant to Terlingua, TX via Pennsylvania and elsewhere. We didn’t get into heavily detailed backgrounds. At first, he struck me as an observer who was pleasant but reserved. As Andrew, the owner of the joint, and I moved from our conversation about working in the design field to talking about the region, Wendell started to interject more and more.
He talked about the various options of buying property here. One being in and around the towns, and the other being way out in the sticks with limited resources and no one around. He didn’t seem to be a fan of the latter. Then, I made a comment about how I thought people must only own horses out here as a sort of hobby and not really as a functional investment. He sort of winced and looked away, and I realized I was making huge assumptions about this area with very little to back it up.
So, I said, “Of course, this is all based on conjecture and having been around the area for like a day or so…so I could be totally and absolutely incorrect.” This seemed to draw Wendell back in, or intrigue him, that I so willingly admitted ignorance. When you’re dealing with people who thrive on connection, you’d always do best to keep your ego out of the mix. It doesn’t impress anybody.
But, this led us into the conversation about the changing demographic of the area.
He is close friends with Andrew, and said he was doing things the right way with “this place”, indicating the coffee shop. The “right way” meaning they didn’t pander to trying to just please and exploit tourists, or marketing themselves for that, but there is also little to no ounce of ego in that place. Nor do they seem like they are heavily focused on expansion, expansion, expansion.
In a small town, that kind of mindset might seem like a no-brainer, but our conversation revolved around how that focus on personal connection can quickly change in an entire community if they are going through a growth period.
As we were discussing all of this, I mentioned to Wendell how even the landscape of this region had made my brain feel less crowded and constricted. And, that I got a sense that everyone local seemed to operate from that same kind of place.
Whereas in most big cities, humans become inundated with round the clock kinetic human energy, and have to go to great lengths to practice patience and remaining present. So, in a way, you have to find a way to operate in these small communities or metropolises mostly by observing the pace at which the people live in them and adjusting yourself accordingly…or getting lost in the fray.
He asked me if I had a tendency to read the overall vibe and pace of every place I encountered. I told him that I definitely did, and I do it so that I can connect with people. I go to great lengths, and always have, in an attempt to connect with as many people as I come in contact with as possible. This tendency of mine to quickly discern the pace of a place though, was a subconscious one that I was not even really aware of until he pointed it out. So, thank you Wendell for utilizing your pace to bring awareness to my own strengths and personal motivations.