Sometimes you need just to talk to people. This can mean taking the pulse of a particular sub-community in Columbia or going for a broad swath of the population. In either case, to find the people you’re looking for, you need to know where they congregate. Such locations are “third places,” the kinds of gathering spots that aren’t likely to have Web sites or PR people (or sometimes even buildings). You have to know where they are and who goes to them to make them work for you and your stories. Then you have to go to them physically. That’s why you won’t find too many hyperlinks on this page.
The list below doesn’t pretend to be exhaustive. Hopefully you’ll find your own third places during your work at the Missourian. Let us know where they are, and we’ll add them to the list.
These are good places for finding a nice cross-section of Columbia residents.
- Columbia Farmers’ Market (1701 W. Ash)
- Open Saturdays from 8 am to noon from mid-March to November and Mondays and Wednesdays from 4-6 pm from May to October
- Boone County Farmers’ Market (the parking lot of The Market Place, 1100 Business Loop 70 West)
- Open Saturdays April to October from 9 am to 1 pm and Mondays and Wednesdays from 4-6 pm May to October
- Shakespeare’s Pizza (225 S. 9th)
- Almost everyone in Columbia eats at Shakespeare’s, though during the school year it seems dominated by college students. Catch lunching downtown workers grabbing a slice on weekdays.
- Any Wal-Mart (there are three in Columbia: 401 N. Stadium, 405 Nifong, 415 Conley)
- So what’s with Columbia and Wal-Mart? The town has a love-hate relationship with the giant retailer, whose founder, Sam Walton, graduated from Hickman High School and MU. The chain’s outlets in Columbia are always packed, yet plans to build another one on West Broadway sparked protest. Part of the animosity stems from the larger controversy Wal-Mart faces nationwide about its business practices. However, complicating the picture for Columbia is the fact that two heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, Ann Kroenke and Nancy Laurie (their father was Sam Walton’s brother), live in Columbia with their families and are by far the town’s richest residents. The Lauries, who have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to MU, created a controversy in 2004 when they named the new sports arena they bankrolled after their college-age daughter, Page, who has little connection to the city and university. The name was changed to Mizzou Arena after a classmate in California accused Page Laurie of cheating on homework.
- An eclectic bunch of people hang out in downtown Columbia. But you won’t find the same people everywhere you go. Try the following places:
- Cherry Street Artisan (111 S. 9th St): Upscale artsy types and university folks hang out here.
- CoffeeZone (11 N. 9th St.) and Ernie’s Cafe (1005 E. Walnut): A diverse crowd hangs out outside these two north downtown landmarks.
- Main Squeeze (28 S. 9th St.): Look for environmental and organic-food and vegetarian types at this “whole foods” restaurant.
- Shattered (Cherry St.): Goths and other club types go to this nightclub.
- RagTag CinemaCafe (Hitt St.): Artsy types of all stripes, as well general movie lovers, catch films here.
These are good places for finding more specific crowds. Keep in mind that unless it’s a public place, it’s sometimes good to call before showing up.
- Hardees (200 Providence Road South) and the Bull Pen Cafe (2310 Business Loop 70 East)
- Many of the city’s political and business bigwigs, past and present, convene informally at these two nondescript restaurants, usually for breakfast.
- Need to talk to African-Americans?
Columbia’s First Ward, including Douglass Park, is the historic heart of the town’s African-American community. While African-Americans now live throughout the city, many still reside in the First Ward and in neighborhoods around Elleta Blvd. on the north side of town. Also try the following:
- Imani Mission Center (7 E. Ash): Kids ages 5 to 18 gather for tutoring and activities, including crafts and music, after school and during the summer. The adult volunteers at the center are quite plugged-in to the community.
- Blind Boone Community Center (301 N. Providence Road)Ã¢â‚¬â€œFounded in 1963, this community center is home to, among other things, the Mid-Missouri Highsteppers, a rhythmic dance troupe. Who was J.W. “Blind” Boone? You’ll see his name a lot around here. The John William Boone Heritage Foundation describes this Columbian, who was born in 1864 and died in 1927, as “a force in the genesis of ragtime.” His home, at 10 N. 4th St. downtown, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Read more about him at the site www.blindboone.missouri.org.
- Need to talk to teenagers and pre-teens? Try the following:
- Columbia Mall (2300 Bernadette Drive): Especially the food court.
- Columbia Skate Park (at Cosmopolitan Park, 1615 Business Loop 70 West)
- Armory Sports and Community Center (701 E. Ash)
- Need to talk to adults relaxing after work? Try:
- Cooper’s Landing (11505 S. Easley River Road) — Marina and Katy Trail stop on the Missouri River; live music some nights (www.cooperslanding.net)
- Les Bourgeois A-Frame (take the Rocheport exit from I-70): This winery atop the bluffs overlooking the Missouri has become an institution and is crowded on pleasant spring, summer and fall evenings.
- Booche’s (Ninth St. downtown) — One of the oldest bars in Columbia, famous for its burgers. Note: you can’t interview people inside Booche’s unless you set it up with the individual interviewee in advance. But you can try to get people coming in or going out.
- For outdoorsy types:
- MKT Trail (entrances off Stadium Blvd. just down the hill west from Providence and off Forum Blvd. just past Katy Place) — Busiest times are weekends, early morning before work, and early evening after work; there is some traffic at noon, too, especially if the weather is nice.
- Rock Bridge State Park (south of town off of Hwy 163)
- MU’s Hinkson Field (just south of Stadium off Providence; turn left if you’re heading south): As of June 2005, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursday evenings were soccer nights for a group of international Columbia residents, from places ranging from Britain to Nigeria to Colombia and everywhere soccer is played; there are also gatherings for ultimate Frisbee and other sports; many but not all of these people are MU students.
- Bass Pro Shop (3100 Vandiver Dr. (take Highway 63 north across I-70; you can’t miss it)): If you need to speak to hunters, fishermen, boaters etc., this new commercial shrine (opened Spring 2005) to those activities is the place to go. This homegrown Missouri chain has outlets nationwide. Check out their site at www.basspro.com.
- For the gay community:
- SoCo Club (128 E. Nifong) — The area’s largest gay nightclub
- Arch and Column Pub (1301 Business Loop 70 East)
- For the Muslim community:
- Islamic Center of Central Missouri (201 S. 5th St.; see the QuasiOfficial Page under Charities)
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