I walked into Puritan Coffee & Beer today for the first time in ages and experienced overwhelming nostalgia. For you to understand the level of overwhelming emotion I felt, I need to tell you a story.
How It Started
In 2017, I was in a pretty dark place. I had just gotten out of a relationship and was utterly heartbroken. To add to my devastation, it was my first time alone in nearly 15 years. I felt lost. And I felt invisible. I was having trouble reconciling my actual life and the one I had been living and dreaming about. In short, I was a fucking mess.
Because I hated being alone, each day I would walk the 8 blocks from my place to Puritan Coffee & Beer with my laptop. There, I would sit at the bar, drink a latte or a draft beer, and work on my computer. Slowly, I got to know the people sitting next to me day-to-day. Over time, I made friends with the baristas and bartenders who waited on me. And before long, I knew the owners, most of the patrons, and the entire staff schedule by heart.
And in turn, they all got to know me too. They would ask how my day was and were generally interested in me. As our bond grew, they asked about my family, and we started making plans outside of Puritan. And while we did do things outside the Dickson Street coffee shop, our friendships flourished inside.
It made going home and being alone easier. Gradually, I got comfortable being by myself. And then the most incredible thing happened: I started to enjoy being alone! I loved feeling free to be me. I cooked myself dinner, didn’t have anyone to clean up after (haha), and made my own rules. Knowing that I had my Puritan people gave me my safety net to heal.
One time, I signed up to take a pottery class. Random right? But fun! One of the baristas from Puritan Coffe actually joined me for the class, and we bonded over molding clay and became good friends (hi Maddie!). Another time, the full solar eclipse came, and my Puritan friends and I all went outside and experienced it together. I also met a sweet friend that I would later hire for Benfield Photography that day (hi other Maddie!).
I spent a lot of time watching movies, listening to music, and just living alongside two of my best friends, Laine and Olivia (hi, friends!). They each taught me a lot. Laine and I would have the most intellectual conversations, ranging from religion to rap music. And Olivia taught me a lot about life and how the world works. Our foursome was rounded out by Mitchell, Puritan’s main bartender (at the time), who invented new cocktails for me nearly every week. Side note: he has taken this passion for serving others and creating cocktails and now has his own business: Griffith Goods and Spirits. Go Mitchell! I hope each of them know the positive impact they played in my healing.
Every Monday, the four of us would head to Maxines after we shut down Puritan. We would have drinks and talk until Maxine’s bartenders would have the last call. We would get personal with each other, always starting with a question of the week. I loved and hated the question of the week. Having to open up to people, even friends, can sometimes be so hard. But damn, did we grow close.
Fast forward 5 years (wow… that number doesn’t seem right), and you’ll find Mitchell and Laine married to each other (cute, right?). Also, both Maddie’s moved away. As did Olivia. And as you all know, I got married and had a baby. With the pandemic and quarantine, it made it impossible to see each other, and to meet at Puritan as we had for so long. As gradually as it started, my time at Puritan diminished. Drifting apart is often unnoticeable when it’s happening. But looking back, it is sharp and painful.
That brings us to today. After a corporate headshot shoot in Fayetteville (yes, I do those!), I decided to stop by the ol’ stomping grounds. While Puritan has expanded and changed since my last visit, I could not believe my feelings when I walked through the doors.
No one knew me. And I didn’t know anyone. Nearly every seat was taken; all of these strangers sitting in my home. The aroma of coffee and beer filled the air in my lungs. Indie folk music–not too loud–filled my ears. The sun I watched set so many times from my bar seat was pouring light through the glass doors and windows. Puritan felt the exact same. Overwhelming nostalgia hit, and all my feelings and fond memories from 2017-18 rushed back to me. Immediately, I wanted to tell everyone there sipping their chi-chis or london fogs what a treasure this place is. I wanted each and every one of them to know and appreciate Puritan for the wonderful place it is.
And I wanted, at least for a moment, to sit at the bar between two friends and have Mitchell make me up a new drink he’d been dreaming up. I wanted Avett Brothers or Head and the Heart to be playing as I open up my laptop to edit photos.
But alas, I collected my cold brew, looked around, and then walked out the glass doors with gratitude and overwhelming nostalgia in my heart.
Thank you, Puritan Coffee and Beer. May others get to know you as I knew you.