In Saratoga Springs, Caffe Lena, the longest continuous running coffee house in the country, celebrated its 50th anniversary. The outpouring of support was gratifying to see. Lena's is a small venue that seats less than 90 people. But almost 700 people turned out for their Arlo Guthrie concert at Skidmore College. Their Friday night fundraiser with a capacity of 75 people (charged $75 each) was sold out. The Saturday free music street festival was crowded all day.
The charm of Caffe Lena is not only its history. Its mission is equally important and it's commitment to keep alive the folk genre of music is admirable. You can't make a lot of money in a venue that small, but Caffe Lena has never been about making money. It has always been about providing the public with the best musical artists available and providing those artist with the best audience possible. Nice to see their work is recognized.
Meanwhile in Albany's Washington Park a large group of people were partying to support another important area venue. Tess' Lark Tavern had a terrible fire several weeks ago and from the moment the news broke supporters have been fundraising to get Tess' reopened. This Saturday was the largest and most public of many such events.
Caffe Lena is more than a coffee house and Tess' Lark Street Taven is more than a tavern. They are gathering place for people to who want to believe in an environment that is welcoming and supportive. In a world driven by commerce, both venues that seat less than 90 people are more beloved than places like the TU Center or even SPAC.
Both venues have developed that mystical thing described as either soul, spirit or karma. They are each transcendent spaces and important to the region.
I've been wondering what other places might generate the same love and affections to their supporters as do Caffe Lena and Tess' Lark Tavern? Any ideas?