Holland might be the most unusual town in Michigan, and I've visited most of Michigan's towns. Frankenmuth follows a close second thanks to the chicken dinner houses and the survival of the German Lutheran culture in Frankenmuth. How is Holland different. Let us begin with the fact of warmth on Eighth Street on this cold February evening. When a snowflake falls on the brick pavers of Eighth Street from Reader's World on River Road to the Holland Area Arts Council near Columbia, the snowflake melts. The sidewalk is heated and attracts winter runners and walkers. At the northeast corner of Eighth Street and College, a fireplace with chimney burns natural gas among inflammable fake logs and offers a place to warm up. All these warm, friendly amenities awaited visitors when Four in the afternoon arrived. However, the coffee house on Eighth Street was closed, now owned by Ferris Coffee. So was the Kilwin's fudge shop and the culinary destination, Butch's Dry Dock. Every retail or culinary space had closed its doors or was in the last stages of closing. Only the brew pubs had remained open, including New Holland Brewing Company and Our Brewing Company.
The money definitely finds way to Eighth Street. The western end of the shopping district has experienced a building boom, west around the area where Native American sculptor Jason Quigno has a soapstone carving of a noble Indian woman. The paint store came down to open up building space. The Holland Area Art Council sold of its two story home and now rents office, performance and exhibition space back from the buyers. A row of fresh cinderblock mixed use retail units, maybe live-work, arise across the street. All this boom town construction has started on a street that goes sleepy on a Sunday. Most retail on the US-31 shopping district east of town will still have open doors until at least Nine PM.
JB's Coffeehouse on the corner might be known as the Christian coffeehouse. Half of the unit houses a practice coffee bar where young people learn how to make cappuccino and operate coffeehouse ministries. I've been presented a free cap with a heart Crema more than once, and I'm sure it is a sign that I dress like a bum. I've talked with more than one minister working out a sermon for the upcoming Sunday at a Reformed church. The barista is more than likely a seminarian at Western Theological Seminary, connected to Hope College, if not a recent graduate. Lemonjello's stands on the corner of Ninth and College south of the Hope College campus. Maybe one can call it a pagan coffeehouse as the hours last until Nine in the evening on Sunday. The tables are full of Hope College students piloting the world of knowledge through a MacBook screen.
I could order tonight a home cooked dinner of chicken with all the fixings if I were in Frankenmuth this Sunday night. Downtown Holland, my choices for dinner tonight are limited, with not more than New Holland Brewing and Eight Street Grill awaiting my order. If chicken is desired, I'll have to find the Kentucky Fried Chicken on US-31. The message couldn't be more clear. Eat Sunday dinner at home. Sunday dinner went the way of the past for me in 1999 after my first and only divorce. As for New Holland, the destination brewery had just won the right to serve beer and wine on Sunday within the last five years. Without that right, the brewery might as well be closed on Sunday evening. I'm not going to call it the Pagan brewery because New Holland does as much philanthropic, good work as any Catholic or Reformed church. Plus, when serving Belgium inspired beers, the house honors centuries of monastic culture. Plus, hospitality for travelers has been found in the Christian towns of Europe since the reign of Charlemagne.