When I was in college, and still living at home (which was on the deep western side of Fresno, beyond the city limits) I needed a place to gather with friends, study, and (sorry mom and dad, love you guys!) be away from the family and just be an older teen for a few hours a day. Located about halfway between popular hangout spots in town and home was what became my place. My “Cheers” if you will – the place where everybody knows your name… and they’re always glad you came! (Sing it with me now…)
My place was the Starbucks once located on Herndon and Marks. During my college years, Starbucks was certainly popular, but it hadn’t reached that point of saturation many of us felt years back, when there were so many Starbucks that mom & pop coffee shops couldn’t stay open and even the movie Shrek 2 poked fun of their ubiquity, showing characters running across the street from one “Farbucks” directly to another.
Each evening, after school, work and dinner, I’d meet my friends and soon my boyfriend, who later became my fiancée (who is now my husband of nearly 15 years) there. Some nights we’d be quietly studying for finals, others we’d be playing cards (Gin Rummy, BS, Egyptian War, Speed, Hearts) and many times, we simply sat outside, sipping our coffee and chatting.
The thing that made the Starbucks on Herndon and Marks so special, was the community of people who also called it their place. Our group of friends grew and our horizons expanded sitting on that patio. We met Kevin, who was a caretaker for the elderly and biked everywhere, so he was eternally tan. He’d often join in on our card games. There was Punky and Joan, who came to read the latest best-sellers on the patio, but would look out for us and give us advice, like adoptive great-aunts. BB was the manager of the Round Table that once operated a couple doors down – and when a pizza was made incorrectly, or there were extra breadsticks at the end of the night – he’d gift them, in all their cheesy glory, to us and we’d eat in silent bliss, as any college kid receiving free pizza would.
We became friends with many of the baristas, along with high school students from Bullard and their parents – many of which we keep in touch with to this day. On our wedding day, my husband and I, wedding party in tow, made our way to our Starbucks for a drink in our formal wear before parting ways for the night. Several of our usual baristas had requested the day off however, since they had been on our guest list.
Sadly, a few years after our wedding day, it was announced that “our” Starbucks would be closing. Palm and Herndon and the Figarden Loop Starbucks locations had opened nearby in rapid succession, and business was not strong enough during the recession to support so many locations in close proximity. With little fanfare, the doors closed and an era ended.
It’s been nearly a decade since our Starbucks closed, however, imagine our surprise and excitement when we heard that Starbucks had decided to reopen in the same location! The “new” store would, like most new locations, feature a drive thru, refrigerated bistro food and an expanded café, patio and retail displays. By usurping the unleased retail space next door, the new Starbucks would be double the size of the old and offer plenty of places to plug in a laptop, hop on wifi and work or study.
Last weekend, my husband and I were driving around and happened to notice it looked like the revamped Herndon and Marks Starbucks had in fact officially reopened so we decided to check it out. Sure enough, it was officially open for business and we giddily went inside, observing all the changes while remembering the many good times we’d had there, simultaneously.
The “new” Herndon and Marks Starbucks is one of the largest and nicest locations I’ve seen – not just in Fresno, but in general. With its spacious interior, updated deep wood décor and generous outdoor seating area, I think it’s safe to say the Herndon and Marks Starbucks will quickly become “the” chosen place for many frequent customers and perhaps a handful of eager, caffeine-loving college kids, too – who will make friends, young and old, and start a history of memories of their own at Starbucks.
With the (wonderful, God-sent, fantastic) invention of the magic which is order by app, these days it’s all too easy to acquire your favorite latte without even interacting with a single other human – however, may I encourage you to take a moment, when you’re not in a rush, to order at the counter? Connect with a friendly, neighborhood barista? Sit a bit on the patio, or offer an extra pastry to the college kid studying away or the retiree, reading the latest Grisham novel? You never know what wonderful people you could meet, and what a warm community you could find yourself happily in.