ELKHART — A reunion this weekend will bring together the staff and patrons who gathered together 40 years ago at a coffee shop that became a hub of art, music and progressive thinking.
Partly Dave’s Coffee House was started in 1966 by students at the Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart on the heels of the nationwide “Coffee House Ministries” movement. The shop was named after a poem by John Lennon and opened at Lexington Avenue and South Main Street. Partly Dave’s followed the belief that coffee should come hand-in-hand with conversation and community.
The shop flourished, at times encompassing a gift boutique selling homemade items, a record cooperative, art festivals and a drop-in center. Local teenagers were drawn to the cool atmosphere and caring staff.
By the time Partly Dave’s closed in 1974, hundreds of staff members and patrons had called Partly Dave’s home.
Events are planned Friday, May 31, through Sunday, June 2, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart, 1732 Garden St., and the McNaughton Park pavilion. Anyone who remembers or participated in the coffee shop is invited to attend the events.
Anne Merrifield of Maine volunteered at Partly Dave’s. She now serves on the organizing committee for the reunion. The last reunion took place in 1985, Merrifield said.
Merrifield remembers Partly Dave’s for its political discussions and focus on teenage outreach.
“It was about relationships and friendships,” Merrifield said. “Drugs were a big deal then, but the kids knew (Partly Dave’s) was a fun place to go.”
Merrifield said that she invited 100 people to the reunion. Of the 30 people expected to attend, several will be ones that used the outreach facilities as teenagers.
Merrifield sees the reunion as both a remembrance and revitalization of the past.
“Where do we go from here? How do we keep up the spirit of (Partly Dave’s)?” Merrifield said.
Steve Gruber of Elkhart is organizing events for the Partly Dave-themed ArtWalk in July. The theme will be “Dancing in the Street,” something that Partly Dave people did frequently, Gruber said. The events will include a ’60s and ’70s live dance band and a display of psychedelic art.
Gruber said his father was an active volunteer at the coffee shop, spending every Friday night there for three or four years.
He hopes the ArtWalk will be a nod to the grassroots approach that Partly Dave’s took to building community.
To register for this weekend’s reunion call Dennis Hiebert at 323-841-1886. The organizers encourage anyone with memories of Partly Dave’s to submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants will be asked for a $10 donation. For more on the ArtWalk events contact Gruber at 574-206-6142.
Partly Dave Reunion
Several events are planned this weekend as part of the Partly Dave reunion:
7 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, May 31, welcome back party at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart, 1732 Garden St.
9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, June 1, panel on the coffee shop’s history, lunch at noon, an “appreciative-inquiry workshop” at 2 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m., Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Elkhart
10 a.m. Sunday, picnic at McNaughton Pavilion. At 11:30 p.m., participants will re-enact the same ceremony that closed the shop in 1974.