The small Wisconsin town of Menomonie is home to several unique cafes, each with their own artsy quirks.

Although it’s not unusual to also find a Caribou Coffee, what’s rare is that this coffeehouse chain provides a special experience—one that rivals an individualistic coffee shop.

Caribou Coffee is more than a cafe; it’s a communal gathering place.

Menomonie community members can study independently, work collaboratively with others, spend time with friends, and get to know someone new there. Within a few short hours, one can easily observe the variety of community members Caribou Coffee serves.

A pair of elderly men play a game of cribbage together at a table near the counter. They laugh and joke amongst themselves, it seems as though they’ve been friends for many years. A woman stands as she types on her laptop placed on a high table. She has been multitasking, typing away on her keyboard while talking on her cellphone in the back corner of the cafe for hours.

A group of freshmen college students come bustling in through the door. They babble to one another, asking each member their opinion on the drink menu. A friendly employee patiently waits for them to make their final decisions. They eventually settle in a booth on the far side of the cafe where they begin to work. They pull out notebooks and laptops from their backpacks, spreading paper all over the table. Oh, the joy of general education group projects.

A young man—but old enough to be a senior in college—sits alone at a table near the door. He order a pink drink; it looks like a strawberry smoothie. He must not be familiar with cafe menus. A young woman with tall heels—about the same age—joins him. She orders herself a mocha frappuccino; she must be the one who suggested this meeting place.

The couple starts to talk and it soon becomes apparent that they are on a date. The man studies engineering, enjoys spending time outside, and is very family-oriented. The woman is very feminine (definitely not a fan of the outdoors) and dreams of living in a big city. Although the date ends on a happy note, but there’s something in the air that silently says that there won’t be a second date.

Although they may not become a couple, the man and woman will likely visit the cafe again. As will the pair of elderly friends who play cribbage there every week together.

The busy woman will surely remember Caribou Coffee as a quiet environment to conduct business in. And there’s no doubt that the freshmen students will make another appearance to the cafe within their college careers as a dependable source of a quick caffeine fix.

More importantly, Caribou Coffee is a place where the various members of the Menomonie community: young students, hardworking business men and women, and elderly retirees can gather together.

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Kelsey Yanna is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Depicting the Chippewa Valley is a series of vignettes written by UW-Stout students about places throughout the Chippewa Valley and Menomonie.

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