Making Memories

Aug 22, 2013 by

Everyone likes to brand their product, event, or self as “unique.” So much so the word is left with little meaning.  Which is troublesome because when most people think about Downtowns, and the restaurants and stores that populate them, they think the best way to describe them is as “unique.”

 Coffee from the Leisure Club

Recently, I visited Pensacola Beach.  I researched Downtown Pensacola before arriving and something on their website struck a chord with me:

…Downtown holds the key to memory-making experiences.

Ain’t that the truth?!? As I’ve had more time to reflect on this, I am even more convinced it is a superior description to simply “unique.”

Memory. Making. Experiences.  And yes, I get it — a lot of memories are made because of the people we are with. But memories are also a lot about place.

In thinking about my own vacation, I recall two separate experiences.

We are in a hurry to get from JCMO to STL.  We needed to just get to our hotel, and get some sleep before we left on our red-eye to Pensacola.  We stop at Ruby Tuesday for a quick bite to eat.  The food?  It was fine.  Memorable?  Certainly not.  In fact, I can’t remember what I even ordered — the salad bar and something chicken.  I do know that I could order the same thing here in JCMO, or at hundreds of other spots around the US.

[Insert pic of food from Ruby Tuesday].  I don’t have one — because…who takes a photo of meals at Ruby Tuesdays? No one.  That’s precisely my point.]

Now to experience number two.  While my husband went on a deep sea fishing excursion, I had the pleasure of exploring Downtown Pensacola with my mom and son.  Not knowing where we wanted to go, we just parked and started walking.  Luckily, we encountered “The Leisure Club.” (No, for all you Truman State folks, it is not a spin-off of Leisure World.  For you non-Truman State folks, that means a Bowling Alley + a Roller Skating rink joined in the middle by a bar.  Best. idea. ever). Anyway, “The Leisure Club” looks a little something like this:

The Leisure Club | Penascola, FL

It was the highlight of our morning.  The furniture was modern.  The decor was trendy.  The servingware was magazine-worthy.  There were a few people just doing their coffee-shop-work thing.  The employees were hipster-esque and definitely more cool than me.  Still, I pushed my jogging stroller and midwest-styled-self in their door, ordered a mocha, and had a seat.   We had no idea what to expect (if we had known, we would have visited earlier in the week).

My mocha came out in a trendy mug with a little art, of course.  But the high point was what my mom had ordered.  The vegetable frittata looked like what I remember of a Spanish tortilla, while living in Salamanca.  But it was nothing of the sort.  Light, fluffy, flavorful — it was quite possibly one of the best breakfast dishes I have tasted this year (although I think Old Ebbitt Grill in DC takes the cake).

When I finally tasted the last drop of that mocha, what do I see?  A little star, telling me: “Good Job! Great Start to your Day!”  Surprise is one of my favorite elements. Something a little extra to make you smile.

The Leisure Club| Penascola, FL

This is where memories are made.  Not at the salad bar of Ruby Tuesday. Ten years from now, I will remember this visit to The Leisure Club.  I doubt I will remember the visit to Ruby Tuesday (that is, unless the rumors are true, and the internet is forever, and by posting this, my trip to Ruby Tuesday will be forever preserved).

Our Downtown is unique, I know this.  But my memory doesn’t capture “unique.”  It captures the intimate setting at the Grande Cafe, with Live Jazz, and a plate of Bruschetta during Dinner Dash.  It captures my Mom’s 60th, my friends’ weddings, and my 5th wedding anniversary dinner at G2Gallery.  It captures the brick on the wall during an intimate lunch with my sister at Cork. I see the scarf on display I purchased for my Mom at Carrie’s Hallmark that she adores.  I see the Seersucker suit my husband wore to a friend’s wedding from Samuel’s.  I see my son’s first drum and tambourine set we purchased from Downtown Book & Toy.

My Downtown “memories” played a key role in me getting involved in the Downtown Association in the first place.  I remember the “e.n.u.f.” outfits (matching tops and stirrup pants) I wore from Young Fashions.  The infinite amount of “school supplies” I acquired from One Stop Office Supply (in the old JC Penney). The “tab” I had at Tolson’s Drug for a fountain soda or snack after school.  The hot tea I loved so much at Fortune when celebrating good grades (in what is now Morgan’s Grill).

I can’t help but wonder what memories visitors to JCMO will have when they leave.  I can’t help but wonder what my son will remember as he gets older.  I am convinced that as parents and as a community we make choices each day that shape what these memories will be.  And I am firmly convinced that is is the ability of Downtown to create these lasting impressions and memorable  experiences that makes Downtown the key to the future economic health and quality of life in our community.

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1 Comment

  1. Beautifully said, Stephanie. I love that tagline and even more, your memories of our Downtown. I’m so happy to be in a place where people really, truly love this city!

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