(Originally published as a column in the Kamloops Daily News on Saturday, November 16, 2013.) 

You know a good place as soon as you enter it.

WarmthIt was Thursday morning; we were the first two customers to sit in the Barnhartvale coffee shop and the big wood stove was quietly churning out heat — an invitation in itself.

We sit next to it and set up the computers. It was a working day, after all.

“A few local people will be here soon for a jamming session,” one of the owners, Carrie, tells us.

I like the quiet and the usual kitchen noises you hear from a kitchen you don’t always see, but there’s something special about witnessing a music morning in Barnhartvale.

We sit and write and the coffee is pleasantly hot.

A few people pour in shortly before 11 and take their seats around the big round table by the window after pulling their guitars out for the jamming.

A few more show up and the first notes fly around the room.

Christmas carols, old songs, interruptions here and there to adjust pace, tone, or to exchange words and jokes and all those “good to be here” looks one would expect.

The group seems so well oiled in creating music, we assume they formed a long time ago.

“It’s their first time like this,” Carrie says.

We write, eat homemade parsnip-and-ginger soup, and music fills all the spaces that would have stayed uselessly empty otherwise.

Music people chatter, other locals step in to warm up over a cup of coffee and to exchange a few words, and writing turns plump and satisfying. I am glad I gave in to the morning invite.

Before leaving, we take a look around the store the coffee shop is adjacent to. Half is old country antique and some has one-of-a-kind fair trade and local art pieces.

In the antique and consignment side of the country store, there is a handmade thick wool sweater with a few moose and evergreen on it. I am hardly the impulse buyer, but this time is different. Every now and then we each give in to a “winter’s on our doorstep” kind of gift and this is mine.

Outside, it smells like winter and feels like it’s about to snow.

We take a stroll through the yard. We’ve seen it before during a drive-through trip in the spring when the coffee shop was still a project and greenness abounded.

PondThere is a pond with edges festooned with dormant water lilies and ruffled-top reeds and a wooden dock in the middle of it. Two mallards with orange feet and a whole lot of confidence make their way out and question our empty hands. The only place where a sense of entitlement doesn’t seem exaggerated.

There is no denial that country charm has dipped its toes in this pond and frolicked about the yard. We’ve seen it in bloom in early spring and we’re not scared by its rather stark autumn appearance, but comforted by its slow pace and leaf-covered paths.

I am partial to quirky coffee shops. I admit it. And though I like walking to my favourite ones in town, the 15-minute drive to and up the windy Barnhartvale road was well worth it.

You know it’s a good place to be when people, who know each other only by virtue of inhabiting the same community, gather to strum a few chords in the warm place that has coffee and homemade lunches — and all the stories and smiles a good host should.

The “Right in the heart of downtown Barnhartvale” sign outside in the parking lot calls it straight.

There’s a heart to it.