Thursday, August 2, 2012

a mangled dime outside of Spruce Salon in Chicopee, MA

The city of Chicopee in Massachusetts is a special place. With a population of just over 54,000, I have been coming to this New England town since I was a child to visit my grandma and grandpa. Chicopee is officially, and unofficially, known for many things. It is known for; its Polish food and residents, the difficulty in finding someone under the age of 55, the Chicopee Falls dam, the excessive number of Dunkin Donuts, the large abandoned industrial buildings, and the birthplace of Edward Bellamy, author of the utopian novel Looking Backward.

In fact, if you Wikipedia the city of Chicopee, the headlining picture featured is a building that is no longer even in use (a picture of the Former Chicopee High School where my mother went in the 70s). However, despite the time machine you have to step in to get to this place, I have always felt welcome and closer to my grandma here (who passed away years ago when I was in college).

While venturing out (loose use of “venturing”), I found a mangled dime on the ground outside of one of Chicopee’s newest establishments (didn’t even know they had new things). The Spruce Salon on Front Street is very cute and quaint hair salon that offers a variety of services and products. Outside of the usual services of a salon, they also have a very friendly staff of 9 to 11 workers and very comfy chairs to sit in while you get your hair done.

The salon opened in 2006 in a small building that used to sell medical equipment. Coming to Chicopee every year since I was born, I had never seen a single person enter the darkened, cramped medical equipment store. Since remodeling the inside, Spruce salon now makes approximately $500,000 to $1million a year, and has brightened up the slightly business-abandoned road section of Front Street.  

In blog news, this post brings me over $1.00! It does pay to look down sometimes.

Total Change Found: $1.02

As a final crazy grandpa note: ever since this salon has opened, my grandfather swears that they make "thousands of dollars" a day and that all people should open salons. He even offered my sister, a current editor at a DC magazine, $5,000 to quit her job and open a salon. Oh the charm (and harm) of Chicopee Mass!

Monday, July 30, 2012

a penny outside of Ozo Coffee on Pearl St. in Boulder, CO

Before a long day of meetings, a number of different classes, or maybe a hike through the mountains, many humans love to start their day with a good cup of joe! Every city has its own special coffeehouse that offers different beans from all over the world. While strolling Pearl St. in Boulder, CO I stumbled upon a penny outside of this Boulder staple (as of recently). Ozo Coffee has two locations, with the newest one being the location on Pearl St. that opened just before Valentine’s Day of 2012. However, despite its rather recent opening, it has already become a favorite of locals, tourists, and critics.

Recently named the 4th best college coffee shop in the USA according to the Staff Writers at (see link below), it has become a hot-spot for fresh brews of exotic coffee beans and a breeding ground for skilled (and award-winning) baristas. The Staff Writers suggest ordering the “Hannah Bee Mocha Latte”, however after perusing the events calendar, I found something a lot more exciting to try.

Every Friday (I guess this can serve as the interesting fact for the entry), Ozo Coffee offers a free brew bar tasting at 2pm. A coffee brew bar is a concept that I was unfamiliar with, but after reading a few articles I discovered that Ozo not only sets themselves apart by the exotic beans that they find, but also by the manner in which they brew the coffee. The owner, Justin Hartmann explains that there are 3 ways to brew the coffee beans at Ozo and each way offers a different taste of even the same beans.

-          Method 1: the Pour Over – the traditional-home way of using a paper filter. This delivers a lighter body which releases more of the intricacies of the flavor.

-          Method 2: the Chemex – uses a metal filter which sacrifices some of the flavor, but delivers a bigger body to the beans. (it is called Chemex because the method is named after the Chemex Coffeemaker invented in 1941 using the same metal filter. This method was used on The Mary Tyler Moore Show!)

-          Method 3: the French Press – the flavors become muddled and this delivers the most body of the three methods.

If you ever find yourself in the Boulder area (well-known for its hiking and the University of Colorado), and you are thirsty for a good cup of joe, stop by Ozo Coffee on Pearl Street. The location offers a variety of beans such as the vanilla sweetness from Ecuador, the caramel and fruity Columbian brew, the sweet-candied apple of Rwanda, and the full-bodied cup of Burundi. Relax and grab a cup while it’s hot!

Total Change Collected: 92 cents

Sunday, July 29, 2012

a penny in the road outside of Julie Community Center

While strolling on Lombard street, I found a slightly bent and frequently ridden upon penny in the middle of the road outside of the Julie Community Center. Celebrating its 35th year of service last year, the Julie Community Center’s mission is to serve the poor and low-income families in southeast Baltimore.

Sign outside of Julie Center reads, "As
you journey through life, may you have
the strength to choose wisely at every
crossroads and may you find happiness".
Founded in 1975, its main focus initially was housing and evictions. Its first program, the “People’s Rights Office” was a place that poor and low-income residents could go to seek help and counseling if they were facing eviction or any other housing difficulties. In 1980, the housing focus separated from the Julie Center and became Jubilee Baltimore. This freed up the Julie Center to work on a number of different community service projects including public health needs, GED programs for adults, art projects, recreational programs for teens, and many other projects designed to serve the southeast Baltimore community and engage the lower-income residents.

Some of their cooler projects involve art, literacy, and peace studies. One specific project is Brick Art, where youth and volunteers work to restore the sidewalk around the community center, by adding art within the bricks. Another really great project that they completed in the summer of 2004 was a Comic Book workshop for pre-teens. The kids, assisted by volunteers, created comic book strips with heroes and heroines that all promoted peace.

The Julie Center has year-round volunteer opportunities that include grant-writing, fundraising, visitor/buddy, tutoring, mentoring, program design/evaluation, recreation, and literacy. Located on 100 S. Washington, it is just a stone’s throw away from my house and I hope to one day volunteer there.

Total Change Collected: 91 cents

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

one penny outside of the Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis

While strolling downtown Indianapolis in the blaring 98 degree summer, I found a penny outside of the Circle Centre Mall. Before I jump into the Circle Centre Mall, I observed a few things about the Midwest and Indianapolis (probably not truths in the slightest but interesting East Coast observations). One very interesting thing about Midwesterners is their loose definition of a “city”. A large bulk of Baltimoreans believe that once you get past exit 12 on 83, you must be out of the city. However, for Indianapolitans this is not necessarily true. In order to save money my girlfriend and I stayed with one of her lovely, accommodating friends from childhood who lives in the city of Indianapolis, but by the looks of it lives in what Baltimoreans would call “the county”. After conversations with other natives, I learned that Midwest cities are generally more spread out than East Coast cities (and also a lot slower moving, haha).

However, back to my penny! I found it outside of Circle Centre Mall which opened its doors in 1995 with over 100 stores on four levels. The fourth level, formerly housing the Alcatraz Brewing Company (which has since moved to Orange, CA), now holds a 9-screen movie theater.

The mall has experienced a drop in profits and rented space in the last few years, especially after Indianapolis had the Super Bowl and lots of money went into other places. However, Indianapolitans remain hopeful that special events and the numerous conventions that Indy holds each year will keep the mall in high prominence. One cool event that Circle Centre Mall is celebrating this year is called Fashion’s Night Out. This event was celebrated last year by 18 countries and more than 4,500 events in the US alone. Its website is here if you would like to check it out. The t-shirts for men and women look pretty cool.

Interesting fact: the Circle Centre Mall is connected to nine different hotels via covered skywalks. The mall also has a Twitter account (@CircleCentre) and tweets various events, store openings, etc. on the account. Follow them! 

Total Change Collected: 90 cents 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

two quarters and a nickel at Green City Market in Chicago!

The Green City Market in Chicago is everything that you would want from a farmers market. Under each tent are friendly, knowledgeable people that are excited to help healthy customers find the perfect ingredients. The food that I sampled and purchased were amazing, to say the least. I first bought a basket of peaches that were not only perfectly ripe, but juicy with each bite. Being in the 93 degree heat, I as thirsty and I decided to try organic, farm-fresh soda. The soda was made with only local ingredients from the market itself. After a few samples, I decided on the Apple and Mint soda which was a perfect drink to offset the hot sun.

Moving around the market, I noticed how eclectic the Green City Market is. The market has the usual suspects such as fresh apples, corn, squash, and other vegetables and fruits. However, one could also find organic, farm-raised meats of all sorts, homemade honey, soft and freshly-made pretzel bread, a variety of organic cheeses, and my favorite station, delicious salsas from a Wisconsin farm using only what can be grown out of the ground.

The market is open on Wednesdays and Sundays from 7am – 1pm, and one of my favorite features about the market is that it is open year-round (moving indoors to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum during the colder months).

During my adventure, I was able to find two quarters and a nickel after sampling some delicious mushrooms drizzled and toasted in garlic and oil. It is my biggest find yet, and boosts my total to nearly over $1.00!

Interesting fact 1: Chicago’s home-brewed beer, Goose Island, actually gets a lot of their ingredients from the Green City Market in order to create new craft beers. I have had 3 different Goose Island brews myself, and each one has been more delicious than the last.

Interesting fact 2: the Green City Market is not supported by tax dollars because it is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization. It survives on the customers that shop there and on donations from farmers market lovers. If you’d like to make a tax-deductible donation go to this website, and do so. I did!

Total Change Collected: 89 cents

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

a penny across from the Family Dollar on Fayette st.

If I found 99 more cents, I could have purchased a pack of pencils, or a pez dispenser, or possibly even some nameless brand toothpaste! Unfortunately though, I only managed to find one penny outside of Fayette Street's Family Dollar. While not all of their products are only $1, they do offer some of the lowest prices on random, everyday items (especially great for back-to-school items)

Using the power of the world wide web, I discovered that there are 42 Family Dollar stores within 25 miles of my zip code (21231). Even more amazing, I looked further into and found out that Family Dollar is actually doing pretty well! They currently have around 7,100 stores nationwide in 45 states and in DC. They currently employ 45,000 employees and have a rising revenue of $8.5 billion. In fact, in 2002 the company became a member of the Fortune 500 list. 

Interesting fact: The founder of Family Dollar was Leon Levine who was born and raised in North Carolina. His introduction to business owning came at only 15 years old. In 1949, his father (a department store owner) died leaving the family's department store in the hands of Leon's older brother. However, in 1951, Leon's older brother was drafted into the Korean War. It was at this point that Leon became the owner of the Department Store, and that was all she wrote! 

Total change collected: 34 cents

two pennies below the JFX (a.k.a. 83)

For the past 35 years, Baltimore has been hosting the Farmers' Market & Bazaar underneath the Jones Falls Expressway (also known as 83 to locals). It is Maryland's largest producers-only market with all sorts of food options and craft buys. Expect to find fresh meats, local fruits and vegetables, organic dairy products, and delicious, fresh herbs. For crafts, it is not hard to find hair accessories, wooden creations, jewelry, handbags, and other creative ideas from local craftsmen and craftswomen. 

I was on my way to the gym (Downtown Merritt Athletic) when I happened upon two pennies. While the Farmers' Market was not occurring at the time (the Market only takes place every Sunday from April to December), I did manage to snap a photo of some of the murals painted on the columns beneath the highway. After searching Google and Yahoo, I was unable to find out who and when these murals were painted, but many of them are food related and probably were painted to complement the Farmers' Market. 

While the roads below 83 are usually only home to the homeless escaping the heat or the towed cars of soon-to-be-sad city folks, this section next on E. Saratoga and N. Gay has wonderful murals, and if you can make if on a Sunday, a great place to find fresh, local foods. 

Total Change Found: 33 cents