Perks found downtown surprise even regulars


August 12, 2002|By Sue du Pont | Sue du Pont,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I WAS ONCE a regular for morning coffee in downtown Annapolis, but I haven't spent much time there lately.

In my absence, a number of exciting attractions have appeared. Exploring them turned my recent trip downtown for Sunday-morning coffee and socializing into an hours-long adventure, complete with a parking ticket - a result of my exuberance and inattention to time.

New on the Annapolis coffee shop scene is Gary Amonth's Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers, which is in the market space storefront once occupied by the Gap clothing store. I decided to check it out after, I admit, spending the first half of the morning enjoying coffee and a scone at the City Dock Cafe, where my running friends always gather after their regular Sunday morning run.

Hard Bean Coffee and Booksellers has a lot to offer. Like the other coffee shops, it has a wide range of hot and cold cafe-style beverages, a selection of sweet treats and a distinctive, comfortable atmosphere.

What it adds to downtown is a much-needed bookstore and three computers for free public Internet access. Indeed, when I went in, out-of-town visitors were checking their e-mail. Many others were perusing the bookshelves with coffee in hand, sitting at tables reading the Sunday paper, or chatting with friends.

Each of the half-dozen or so downtown coffee shops has loyal customers who will only deviate under pressure from a "coffee date" who prefers another spot.

Melissa Yanowitz of Annapolis is one such person. She will occasionally go to Coffee Gurus in Eastport, Starbucks at the City Dock, or any of the others if she is meeting friends with leanings toward those cafes. Other times, they join her at her favorite, City Dock Cafe.

Hard Bean Coffee already has devotees. Take Tony Evans, an Annapolis resident who helps coordinate farmers' markets across the state.

He likes the coffee and the atmosphere, and loves having a bookstore downtown. Standing alongside vendors at one of the two new farmers' markets in the city, he tells me he now gets his coffee there and regularly sends out-of-sorts tourists to the Hard Bean, where they can purchase maps of the area.

The farmers' markets have opened in downtown Annapolis this summer. The largest is held on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Calvert Street in the "park" across from the Arundel Center.

The second is at City Dock on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. The City Dock market is much smaller, but offers equally wonderful local products. Produce is sold Wednesdays while cut flowers are sold Saturdays. On Sunday, Winnie and Gus Dabrowski of St. Michaels bring their fresh-cut flowers while Bill Harris and Peggy Campanella of Harris' Orchards in Lothian bring fresh-picked fruit.

Next time you are there, strike up a conversation and learn how crops are doing, ask for a favorite recipe, or pick up a bouquet or a quick, nutritious snack.

Within feet of the City Dock farmers' market is a new exhibit panel describing the recently completed three-part Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial. The memorial is intended as a place for learning, sharing, inspiration, reflection and healing. Part one is a story wall, a row of 10 plaques. Each displays a quote from Alex Haley's book Roots and an interpretive thought.

Second is a sculpture group at the head of Ego Alley, which depicts Alex Haley reading to three children of different ethnic backgrounds. A plaque, which was dedicated in 1981, is next to the sculptures and commemorates the arrival of Kunta Kinte in the port of Annapolis in September 1767, a few days before he and nearly a hundred others were sold into slavery.

The third section is a compass rose with a world map set in the ground pointing to true north. The City of Annapolis is located at the map's center. The exhibit asks people to stand on the map and face the direction of their ancestors' origins. At Susan Campbell Park at the outer edge of City Dock, another attractive, informative, outdoor exhibit is on display. It tells the story of Annapolis as a gateway on the Chesapeake Bay.

Six display panels track the city's history from the early 17th century, when Captain John Smith explored the area, through today's recreational waterfront. One gets an accurate overview of trade, transportation, the watermen and working harbor, and the more recent recreational boating industry. It encourages the reader to understand the past and envision a future where stewardship keeps the maritime legacy alive.

Head up the hill to West Street on the first Sunday of any month and enjoy a celebration of arts and entertainment. Begun last fall on a small scale with art receptions at Brian and Sarah Cahalan's 49 West Cafe and Eric and Megan Evans' ARTFX, this promotional event is growing with lots of fun for everyone.

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