OK, Steamworks, enough already. You’ve made your point. And you’re right. We concede and we’re sorry for taking you for granted. We need you. You’re wonderful. We can’t live without you. Is that good? Will you now just stop it with this whole “remodel” thing? Because seriously, you could have been closed for a week and your message would have been received.
I knew I had a pressing issue after realizing I had been walking up and down Main for four hours, shiftless and aimless with sunken-eyed disillusion, shout-mumbling about Steamworks being closed for the last three weeks for renovations – or has it been three years? – but now I’m wondering if it never even existed, just this wonderland figment of my imagination that everyone else somehow seems to know about.
I exaggerate, but it’s funny how one establishment’s temporary monthlong closure can be seen and felt and heard around town, how these places become a part of our lives, how their familiarity brings order and comfort. And just as interesting, for as much as Steamworks is my place, for some people, close friends of mine, they never go there and never think of going there. Because they have their own places and circuits.
Asked where I’d like to go for my birthday lunch Monday, I said “Steamwo …” before taking a knee, breaking down in tears and settling on El Moro. A group of friends has a recurring gathering at Eno and we regularly hit Steamworks afterward. In April, we just go home. I see orphaned Steamworks bartenders filling shifts elsewhere and my heart twists a little.
I know I have a problem of not not going to Steamworks. Whenever I get a reward – a free dessert, say, or a free growler – from using my Steamworks card (which basically means one point for every dollar spent), all I can think is, “Have I really spent that much here already?!” I know I’m supposed to be happy for my “free” pizza, but I’m just thinking, “Sheezus, I need to make better life choices …”
I find how we build positive associations with businesses and brands fascinating. What about a store’s sign – the name, the design, the font – makes us want to check it out? What assessments do we make about a business, consciously and not, within moments of walking in for the first time – lighting, roominess, organization, the level of attention from the staff – that may determine if we ever return and how often?
My relationship with Steamworks began before I moved here, while I was in town interviewing with the Herald. Eager to check out the town and try one of its 18.6 brewpubs, I was delighted to find one caddy-corner to my hotel, The Rochester. I’d been offered the job and was taking the night to make sure I wanted to say yes. It’s amazing how Steamworks worked its way – however small – into that decision.
(1) I serendipitously sat next to a former Herald city editor at the bar. Fearing I’d hear a laundry-list of terribleness about the paper, he could really only say good things about his experience. (2) I mentioned to the bartender, Ryder, that I’d been offered a job in town and would likely be living here in a month. He said congratulations and gave me a Prescribed Burn on the house (I had been ridic in love with chili beers at the time and the mere fact that Steamworks had one overwhelmed me with goofy joy). Or (3) maybe it was the cavernousness and the high ceilings or the brewtanks on display and how Steamworks was the exact replica of what a small-town Colorado brewpub looked like in my East Coast imagination.
Whatever it was, I imprinted on Steamworks like a baby bird imprints on its mother. And now it’s my place. Every day, I’ll continue tugging on the locked door and pounding on the glass. I’ll continue to lie in a crumpled heap on the corner of East Second and Eighth, wailing and frightening families. Maybe that will speed things up.