A Good Cafe Is a Public and Private Place
Marisa Smith grew up in Hanover and remembers taking ballet lessons in the Grafton Star Grange Hall on Lebanon Street.
She moved away and when she and her husband, Eric Krause, moved back to Hanover in 1995, there was a cafe in the building’s basement. They started going there sporadically, then more often. Gradually, it became a second office.
“He kind of lived there,” Smith said of her husband and partner in Smith and Kraus, a publishing company that specializes in plays. Their kids would come look for them at Rosey’s in the afternoon rather than going home first.
A good cafe is like a living room, and Rosey’s was just such a space for Hanover, a comfortable place where people could meet and socialize and work, three things that aren’t as mutually exclusive as they are often made out to be. Rosey’s closed on Dec. 31.
I used to meet people there for interviews and over the years sat down at least a dozen times to talk to authors, filmmakers, photographers, Dartmouth students and professors, people engaged in creative work.
Cafes have always been thus, refuges for reading, writing letters or ruminating. Part private, because you have to know about them, and part public, because they’re in plain sight, they are like hideaways, open to all.
That’s especially true in Europe.
One afternoon, When I was sitting upstairs in Paris’ Cafe de la Mairie, a group of young people came in, two or three young men and a young woman. They sat the young woman next to the window and worked around her, obscuring her from view.
For the handful of people in the cafe, most of us students drinking coffee, it was like a little secret performance. Not everyone noticed what was happening until the young woman stood up. She was so lovely that a couple of the young students softly gasped. It turned out that she was a model being made up for a photo shoot in the neighboring Place St. Sulpice. From table to table, we looked at each other, eyebrows raised, a shared moment among strangers.
Sometimes what’s created at a cafe is of far greater consequence than a book or an interview or a moment.
Craig Parker sat in on the first meeting of what became the Lwala Community Alliance at Rosey’s. Fred and Milton Ochieng, Dartmouth students from Kenya, pitched their dream of opening a health clinic in their hometown. The first fundraising happened, almost by accident, a short time later at a conference Parker and Fred Ochieng attended in Albany, N.Y.
“We would always meet at Rosey’s,” Parker said. The health clinic opened in 2007 and now has 100 Kenyan employees providing HIV care to 1,200 patients. Parker is chairman of the nonprofit clinic’s board of trustees.
Parker also met Dartmouth baseball coach Bob Whelan at Rosey’s. He ended up developing service trips for Whelan’s players.
Smith said she interviewed Parker for a play she wrote that had a couple of evangelical characters in it. “We probably sat at his desk,” she said.
“I miss it,” she said of Rosey’s. “There’s nothing comparable, really.”
Alex Hanson can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3219.