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The Vicksburg Series: Coffee & Culture - A Petite Retreat to Main Street Vicksburg

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Cafe 8 staff

Café 8 is the perfect sweet retreat, right on Main Street, Vicksburg. The candy selection alone may transport you back to your happy childhood days. Shelves are laden with gum balls, Nerds, giant Gobstoppers, lollipops, Pop Rocks, sherbet sticks, love hearts, edible necklaces, Coconut Patties and finally there is a large taffy stand with many traditional favorites such as Black Jacks, waiting to take you back in time.

I managed to walk beyond these goodies towards the counter where the owner Malissia Chopp and her engaging smile, beckoned me. It was then that I spotted the trays of artisan chocolates in a glass cabinet, and knew, this was going to be a good day! Café 8 is a happy place. It is not just the candy but Malissia’s warmth, energy, and positive attitude.

Prior to opening the café, Chopp was a successful farmer and then a wedding planner. A flair for design, Chopp has created a very cozy place to spend time with friends or family.

Café 8 is a confectionery haven, which also serves a wide range of cappuccinos, frappuccinos, smoothies, lattes and teas along with a selection of muffins and brownies.

I ordered an English Toffee Latte with whipped cream, and sat at the elevated table by the window, which had a perfect view of the candy. Chopp joined me with a sample tray of chocolates. I tried the alligators, salted caramels, raspberry crèmes and a double chocolate malt ball, while she shared the background of the café.

Chopp laughed as she explained that Café 8 is named after her 8 children. “I couldn’t put all of their names in the title, so it seemed like a perfect solution.” The Café has been open for 6 months and her children were involved in the startup, creating art for the walls, designing the logo and generally helping to run day-to-day aspects of the business.

“Opening the café, has been a wonderful experience for us as a family,” Chopp shared. “This is my first time starting my own business from scratch. I have learned a lot. It has also been great for my children to see an idea move from concept to fruition. It has also inspired my son to start his own landscaping business.”

Talking about the future, Chopp shared that she is now taking bookings for baby and bridal showers and is considering adding a bakery. Café 8 is open from 6.30am-5pm Monday-Friday and on Saturdays between 7.30am and 3pm. It was obvious that Chopp loves her work and the customers clearly love chatting to her, and so did I.

After leaving Café 8, thoroughly enjoying my delightful conversation and delicious chocolates, I turned right on Main Street towards a beautiful building, off to enjoy The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center- (VCAC) to feed my visual appetite.

The goal of the arts center I quickly learned from Director Syd Bastos, is to support and promote local artists and is funded by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation and the Vicksburg Foundation. The VCAC also hosts the Visitor Center for Vicksburg.

As we toured the center Bastos smiled and shared what she enjoys about her role at the center, “I have the opportunity to work with both visual and performing artists, as well as members of the community, to develop exciting and unique arts programming.”

The center represents and displays the juried works of 25 artists from Kalamazoo and St. Joseph Counties, including, painters, potters, sculptors and jewelry makers. It also offers exhibitions, the promotion and sale of art, as well as live music events, such as the Coffeehouse Concert Series and International Arts and Culture Programs.

Lisa Beams is Gallery Manager. She is responsible for maintaining the gallery and recruiting new artists. Beams, is also one of the permanent artists displayed at the VCAC. She is a potter, and the creator of over one hundred mugs for The Distant Whistle Brewery Mug Club. Every mug is handmade by Beams and is unique in color and design. The mug wall is on display at the microbrewery, and is a stunning piece of evolving art that gets used every day.

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 12pm-6pm, Wednesday 12pm-8pm and Saturday 10am-4pm. For more information on the center and background on the artists visit their web page at www.VicksburgArts.com or their Facebook page.

The Vicksburg locals welcomed me with open arms. They were passionate to share everything that is happening here and bursting with suggestions for other things I need to see, including the Historic Village and the annual Classic Car Show. So of course, I am already planning my next retreat to this charming town and hope you’ll also plan a visit soon.

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