The 920 block of Selby Avenue, in St. Paul, MN, is the heart of a neighborhood. Golden Thyme Coffee Cafe , Bouquets by Carolyn, and Obama Campaign Headquarters comingle in this short stretch of brick and mortar between Milton and Chatsworth. “Mayor” Mychael Wright and wife Stephanie, owners of Golden Thyme are prominent figures in the community. The Café is a meeting place and unofficial headquarters for the Selby Avenue Jazz Fest, started in 2002. Mychael has partnered with local organizations, businesses, and schools, offering space at the Café for everything from toy giveaways at Christmas to political stump speeches and African-American-themed movie nights.
Today, there are customers at every table. Two self-proclaimed regulars, Patrick and Henry, are seated on high stools at the front window counter. “Everybody feels relaxed here,” comments Patrick, “it’s a corner of America that is mixed and molded..middle of the road.”
Bob and Mary, from neighboring St. Clements Episcopal, incorporate Golden Thyme into their weekly routine and also that of their church. “We hold meetings here and have started a social action community task force…we want to find more ways for St. Clements to be part of the neighborhood. At one time we were a ‘commuter church’, but that is just not the case anymore- a church should be at the heart of its community,” observes Mary.
At the next table over sits Minnesota Stevie, a musician specializing in everything from jazz and R&B to rap and funk.
There is a steady hum of conversation, business and pleasure. People meeting, people who are neighbors, and those just stopping by.
Bouquets By Carolyn, just across Selby, has been in the current location since 2002, but a business for 22 years. It is the first African-American woman owned floral business in Saint Paul. Carolyn takes time out from a busy morning to chat. She says business is good, better now than during the period of recession. Her grandson is in the shop, helping with orders. She is also the proud grandmother of Olivia Bruce, 17, a student at Duke Ellington School of Art in Washington, DC. Carolyn shows me a photo of Olivia and her mom with President and Mrs. Obama. It turns out that Olivia’s artwork was selected to appear in a White House holiday tour book!
Right next door to Carolyn’s establishment is the temporary home of the St. Paul Obama Campaign. The office manager tells me that they are gearing up for Election Day- clearing space for all the supporters expected to descend upon the office. Volunteer phone banks are in full swing and the volunteer receptionist is a testament to grace under pressure.
In the space of a couple of hours I met over a half-dozen people and heard about neighborhood, family, and community pride. Blogging is a GREAT way to explore community and share what you learn- many thanks to all!