I write this from the latest treasure to open downtown: Red Couch Trading Post, where I write on my laptop while enjoying a blueberry cream-cheese cake, a cinnamon pull-apart (a small monkey bread), and a coffee.
Red Couch is part cafe, part bakery, part deli, and part convenience store. They have a simple deli counter, where you can have sandwiches made to order. At the same counter is their selection of pastries: not only the cinnamon pull-aparts, but cakes, pies, cobblers, and cookies. (I have tried both the peach and the blueberry cobblers, and they are excellent.) The espresso bar offers Fair Trade Certified coffee, both in prepared beverages and as bags of beans.
Most exciting, I think, is that Red Couch is a locally owned, neighborhood convenience store. Not only coffee beans are for sale, but also milk, butter (by the stick), single-serving breakfast cereals, crackers, chips, canned soups, canned milk, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toilet paper, laundry detergent, and cat and dog food. (In fact, I first stopped into Red Couch a couple of weeks ago, when I was clean out of cat food. I made the mistake of driving to a popular national chain first and getting what I needed, then visiting Red Couch because I’d read about it in the newspaper. I kicked myself afterwards for depriving myself of a nice walk and the chance to support a neighborhood business.)
Now, the two or three national chain groceries closest to downtown have a far greater selection than Red Couch — but having the greatest selection is not the point of a convenience store. The point is that it’s in your neighborhood, and going there is faster and easier than getting in your car to drive to a major grocery store. In fact, the major grocery stores near us are within walking distance of practically nobody (which, if you’re without a car, really makes them inconvenience stores). Red Couch is actually in a neighborhood, where people live. They are right behind Golden Towers public housing and within especially easy reach of the east side of downtown (Clay St., etc.).
The fact that they offer wireless internet access (in addition to lunch, coffee, and snacks) means that they are a great place for downtown business people to spend time getting work done in a bright, relaxed atmosphere. My wife, for example, often has to be in the courthouse, and she could do a good bit of e-mailing and report-writing while enjoying tea, coffee, or lunch — or while just relaxing on the cozy red couch for which the store is named.
(Today was my first time trying to connect to their wireless access point, with no success. My computer told me that the connection was established, but nothing was ever transmitted or received. If anybody reading this has some wireless networking expertise, could you please pay them a visit to see if there’s anything they might change to make the wireless work better?)
I think it’s always a good thing when a local business gives people reasons to get out of their houses and walk around their neighborhoods. In fact, the best neighborhoods are full of such destinations, and can be identified partly by the number of people on the street moving from one useful place to the next. Red Couch Trading Post gives downtown another such destination — a place to do something useful and to relax (and perhaps to run into neighbors). As long as they’re open, I’ll happily give them my custom.
Red Couch Trading Post is at 309 Second Avenue (where Second crosses Dunkel), in downtown Fairbanks. They are currently open Tuesday – Friday, 6:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., and Saturday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Their telephone number is 374-3414; their fax number (they take fax orders for sandwiches) is 374-3430.
Article from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, May 7, 2009.
In sadder news, Gambardella’s has now closed their breakfast service. A manager told me that they got almost no business at that hour, and it just wasn’t cost effective to keep three or more people on staff for the extra hours. That’s too bad: I thought they lent breakfast a touch of class, a chance for the morning crowd to take a step up from the readily-available diner fare. I wish Red Couch better luck.