Coffee critical to the fabric of downtown

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I don’t fit the classic movie stereotype of a hardened newspaper person.

I don’t smoke. I don’t have a fifth of whiskey in my desk drawer. I don’t cuss. I’m not a 50-year-old man. And I don’t drink coffee.

I took an advanced reporting class in college, and we discovered one morning that I was the only non-coffee drinker in the bunch. The professor — a hardened newspaper person — told me a few years in the newspaper world would change that.

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He’s either wrong, or the big change is yet to come.

So, needless to say, a coffee shop isn’t the first thing I look for in a new town. I’ve never bought anything from Starbucks, and even a sip of an orange crme frappuccino makes my stomach turn.

But, I’d be sad to see the Natchez Coffee Co. go.

Not that it is going anywhere. Owners Bill and Davilynn Furlow have put up a “for sale” sign in the window, but they say they won’t sell to someone interested in changing the business too much.

The business is for sale, not the building, and the Furlows have started a good thing. The coffee shop now just awaits new owners.

And it’s important to Natchez, the Miss-Lou even, that those new owners surface soon.

The coffee shop is about more than coffee.

For me, it’s got ice cream and a cool atmosphere.

For some, it’s got lunch or breakfast.

And for everyone, it’s got charm.

Natchez is charming; we all know that. But sometimes charming cities need certain charming details. Since 2006 the Natchez Coffee Co. has been one of those details.

The shop breaks the downtown pattern of antique shop, gift shop, children’s shop, bar and offers something for everyone.

In the last year, I attended group functions for our newspaper staff and for my church at the shop. I’ve had business lunches there, and afternoon breaks. When my parents came to town, we had ice cream.

Leland Speed, former director of the Mississippi Development Authority, and my favorite source on economic development pegged the Natchez Coffee Co. as a sort of spark plug for the future of Natchez.

Downtown would blossom around it, he said, and the rest of the county would soon follow.

Speeds’ words seem like a mighty calling for a single small town business, but I think he’s right.

Business leaders like long lunches. They like meeting places and a relaxing atmosphere. Think of the plans that could come from a few orange crme frappuccinos.

Every town needs a hub with a coffee shop and a bookstore, Speed said.

With Turning Pages and Cover to Cover a few streets apart, Natchez can’t afford to let our coffee shop vanish.

Surely a willing investor is waiting to become a part of the future of Natchez.

I’ll continue to pass on the coffee. But I don’t want to see Natchez pass on the cream.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or