This week’s column was triggered by a story about the demise of village cafés across France. As industries like “mines, textile factories, and steel smelters” closed, workers were forced to seek employment beyond the villages. People moved or commuted and no longer frequented the village cafés. And, so they closed, too.
The impact of this shift was felt not only in jobs but also in a sense of community. One villager says, “There’s nowhere to go out around here. We no longer know our neighbors. We all live in a bubble.”
I was reminded of the articles I see about small towns in Georgia and elsewhere, towns that were once vibrant but are barely hanging on today. Cue the tumbleweeds blowing down Main Street.
Thankfully, that’s not the case in Dunwoody. I may not know everyone’s name, but I see familiar faces everywhere I go. Of course, I am a creature of habit, and I frequent the same places most weeks. I meet friends for coffee or lunch at Crema, and I never fail to see someone else I know when I’m there. I love that Mirav calls me by name when I approach the counter. Crema is my village café.
If you live closer to Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, you may call Starbucks your village café in the morning, or maybe it’s the local Dunkin’ Donuts. Closer to 285, it could be Goldberg’s. In the evening, it may be Village Burger or the Dunwoody Tavern. Our town has plenty of venues that create a sense of community for us.
I see familiar faces when I attend plays at Stage Door Players, and I bump into acquaintances when I work out at the MJCCA. I’m such a regular at Consigning Women, whether I’m dropping off items from my closet or browsing their selection, the ladies there also know me by name. When I walk at Brook Run Park, I see friends, and I see them again at Lemonade Days every April. All of these experiences foster a sense of community.
Our very active community groups also contribute to this feeling. Whether it’s the Garden Club, the Women’s Club, the Dunwoody Preservation Trust or the Friends of the Dunwoody Library, these groups foster a community vibe in Dunwoody. I only belong to the library group, but try to attend the Garden Club Luncheon annually, and I enjoy seeing the many familiar faces.
When I was fortunate enough to visit a high school friend who now lives in Mirmande, a small village in France, I witnessed the same sense of community. Everywhere we went—the farmer’s market, the several restaurants, the dress and jewelry shops — the shopkeepers knew Lynn by name. The village may be filled with tourists part of the year, but it’s the locals who breathe life into it year-round.
I like to think of Dunwoody as my Mirmande. We may not have stone cottages and steep cobblestoned streets, but we have a vibrant place to live. We have parks and cafes and a farmer’s market. We have friendly, community-minded residents. I’m thankful to be able to call the “village” of Dunwoody my home.
Author Kathy Manos Penn is a Sandy Springs resident. Find her books on Amazon and at the Enchanted Forest. Contact her at email@example.com.