Editor’s Note: I am the host, producer and photographer for the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast. I also write a monthly guest column related to the podcast for two local newspapers in Chaffee County, Colo.: the Chaffee County Times (Buena Vista) and The Mountain Mail (Salida). This is my column based on my conversation with entrepreneur and author Laurie Benson.
When I talked with Laurie Benson, a woman of many talents and ventures in Buena Vista (Colo.) and far beyond, for the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast recently, one of the key topics of conversation was community.
Many of you know or are aware of Benson and her work locally. Maybe as a former owner of the Buena Vista Roastery and the Roastery Cafe, and of the Village. Maybe you’re aware of her work globally, through her 1% for Women, Madres e Hijos and other efforts.
I have often referred to the Looking Upstream podcast as a “local is universal” kind of thing. That’s because I talk with guests like Benson who live locally in Chaffee County, but they bring a wealth of stories, experiences and perspectives that reach far beyond our rural geography here in the Arkansas Valley.
With Benson, we talk about community as a richly layered “local is global” opportunity. I ask her about what she’s learned, what insights she might be able to offer from her experiences, near and far.
We talk about her work on climate issues around the world and her connection with indigenous women. She shares about her work with mothers and children seeking safety and support at the U.S. border with Mexico.
We talk about the power of perception to shape how we see and move through life, and about accepting life with a neutral spirit. These inner practices are at the heart of Benson’s current work with Inward Bound, which she also founded.
Inward Bound brings together women and highlights tools for them to go inward and recognize their value and purposes in life. You might have seen her book, “Leading from the Feminine,” on the shelf in the Buena Vista Roastery Cafe or in other places where it’s available.
Here’s one of Benson’s stories of community from our podcast conversation, reflecting on the evolution of Main Street in Buena Vista in the past 15 years, or so, and her and husband Joel Benson’s involvement in it:
“When we first moved here, the highway was thriving and Main Street was dying. There was no activity on Main Street. When we bought the Buena Vista Roastery. It was working out of the Jailhouse. It’s now the Slammer. It was just this little roastery with a two-top table in it.
“At one point, we moved across the street to where Rock Paper Scissors is now and expanded a little bit more of a cafe space. We had a booth and a couple tables, and everything that the cafe is right now was a parking lot.
“We decided to take out a loan and build what today is the cafe. We actually had people coming in while we were building and saying, ‘We’re really worried about you guys. This town’s dying. What are you doing? You’re going to throw all your money at this and you’re going to lose it all.’
“But it comes back to community. We knew that the community needed a place to gather and a place to come together. We also really believed in Main Street and that it could come back to life. CKS was there; they had just moved not that long ago. Asian Palate was opening. Mothers used to be there.
“There were some core people, business owners, community members who were really committed to making Main Street come to life. We all would meet on a regular basis and say, ‘What do we do? How do we bring people to town?’
“It is hard to describe for people what it was like on Sundays. On a Sunday, if there was one car parked on Main Street, it was like, ‘Oh, who is that? What are they doing?’ It’s really different now.”
Listen to my full conversation with Laurie Benson [using the embedded audio player above, or] at wearechaffee.org or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify or another podcast player.
Adam Williams hosts the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast every other Tuesday. All episodes of the Looking Upstream podcast, and other We Are Chaffee storytelling initiatives, are available at wearechaffee.org. Follow @wearechaffeepod on Instagram.