When we first moved to Altus two years ago, we were told that Starbucks was coming to town and that they were building on a lot that was then the site of an abandoned Carls Jr. that shared a parking lot with my son's school. I would have been elated if someone had only torn down the Carls Jr. and planted a tree, but we were thrilled to be getting this bit of city-life in our new small town. Then nothing happened for a really long time, like over a year. Finally, late last spring when we were just about to give up hope, my van load of boys and I rejoiced when we pulled into the school parking lot and saw a track excavator shredding the former fast food joint. The building process seemed excruciatingly slow. Anxiously we watched the building be bricked, the windows go in, the cool, wooden arch go up over what would be a drive-through.
My husband was visibly altered once they opened. There was a spring in his step and a glimmer in those blue eyes that had been missing. I didn't even give him too hard a time when I was at home with three screaming boys, trying to make dinner, and he would walk in with his flight suit smelling of fresh-roasted, caffeine-infused goodness. I would just sniff him and roll my eyes. He would grin sheepishly and go change clothes. It was okay because now I had a place to go meet my friends after the kids were in bed. We could get a drink and dessert and pretend we were living some place cool and cosmopolitan. All that ended last Friday. I made sure my husband didn't spend any time alone that day. I wouldn't call it a full-blown suicide watch, but it's better to be safe than sorry.
The last time I went through the drive-through, there was a sadness in my barista's eyes as she handed me what would be my last decaf white chocolate mocha, but I didn't know what to say. I didn't want to get teary in the drive-through, so I just said, "Have a good day," with a weak smile and drove off.
Now the parking lot is empty and there is paper covering all the windows. It's incredibly depressing. When I drive past now, I find myself muttering things like, "Corporate bastards," under my breath. Even my seven-year-old is really upset about it. Understanding his frustration, I didn't say anything when he used the s-word yesterday. "The people that closed Starbucks are so stupid!! They're stupid, stupid, stupid!!" he shouted from the back of the minivan. "I know, Sam. You're right--they are," I agreed. My poor three-year-old was completely confused by his big brother being allowed to use this forbidden word. Not only have they left an empty building in the middle of our town, but Starbucks has also introduced my pre-schooler to moral ambiguity.
I heard Beth Moore say once that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die from it. So in the spirit of forgiveness I say to the greedy Starbucks executives, "I release you. May God be your judge, you corporate bastards." Okay, I still have some work to do.
As with all frustrating, disappointing situations in my life, I'm trying to lay it at the feet of the One who created coffee beans and gave me the desire to have a cool place to enjoy them, and trust that God has something even better in the works. I'm reminded of when we were told last year that we would have to move from our house on base so that it could be torn down. We had worked hard to paint and settle into the bad '80s reno of a '60s ranch house that we happily called home. I prayed, "Lord, please don't make us move." I had gotten pregnant right before we moved into this house, and it had taken forever for us to get completely unpacked. Although it was a ton of work, today we're re-settled into a house that we bought off-base that has another bedroom, 1000 more square feet, and a beautiful, shady, fenced backyard for the boys. Even though I cringe knowing that the moral of my story is a country song, it doesn't make it any less true.
So now that the door of Starbucks is closed forever, I'm waiting for the window to open. I'm waiting for a really cool independent coffee house to open in Altus, Oklahoma.
This is the downtown building that I would buy and turn into that really cool coffee house if I wake up to find $70,000 under my pillow. The decrepit looking building on the left side is for sale for about $40,000. I'm estimating $30,000 to get a business up and running on the first floor, but I really have no idea. The other side is also empty and could probably be purchased at some point as well. For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to visit our fair city, this is actually the most run down side of the square. The other sides have some respectable, successful businesses. On the opposite side, our church meets in the renovated old town theater.
I don't actually want to run a business. Quite frankly, I don't have the time. I just want to tell someone else what it should look like, where there should be a kids play area, a stage for live music on the weekends, and which healthy muffins and yummy pastries to serve. Then I want to plant some flowers in the front and walk away. Well, I guess we'll see what happens. If you happen to have $70,000 and want to give the gift of espresso to a deserving town, please contact me.