Lucky’s Coffee Garage: a Gathering Place for our Running Community
By: Hannah Task and Scott King
The Saturday morning running groups are about more than just the run. Lucky’s Coffee Garage in Lebanon is a great place to gather after week-end runs and connect with fellow runners while enjoying delicious food and drinks. Runners also appreciate Lucky’s’ central location, unique decor true to its gas station history, and welcoming staff. As organizers of the Saturday morning run and Couch to 5K groups, we asked several regulars to tell us more about their perspectives on Lucky’s.
At Lucky’s, runners share lively conversations and stories. Jim, a longtime UVRC organizer, says, “I have really missed seeing my running friends during the pandemic and look forward to reuniting again soon at Lucky's. All you have to ask is, ‘How did your run go?’ And the conversations just go on and on”.
Tim, another UVRC organizer whose accomplishments include developing a virtual racing app, likes to listen to and share stories with other runners, such as those about injuries or races. Sara, a running enthusiast and volunteer, also misses going to Lucky’s in person and hearing stories, such as Tim’s about pet-sitting for Alberto Salazar.
There are times when spouses or children have joined us after our runs. Annabelle, for example, joins us on the runs in a stroller and is a great joy to have at the table. Her family is the only one Scott knows in the running group in which three generations attend Lucky’s: Annabelle, her mom Jen, and her grandmother Laurie.
Lucky’s facilitates new connections with team-mates and other people. RJ, who frequents Saturday morning runs and volunteers with the Couch to 5K program, first had a long conversation with Nancy and Geoff, UVRC runners and organizers, at Lucky’s. He and his friend Matt, a fellow UVRC runner and Couch to 5K volunteer, were in a book club and asked for recommendations. “Nancy was cycling from book to book with all these really interesting stories she’s read. It was great, I lost track of time entirely. It was a great community-building moment”.
Tim once connected with someone sitting behind him when he overheard that person talking about getting into running and wondering about the local running community. He turned around and told that person about the club, and the person joined in with some club events after that.
Nancy has found it fun how particularly in the summer, people would join a UVRC group as they finished their runs, “and as some people would leave, more people would join”. Dorcas, another UVRC organizer, says “I love that the 9:00 runners would come around 10:30 and the Couch to 5K runners [who meet at 8] would still be there . . . you had a chance to hang out with them as well”.
Lucky’s serves tasty coffees and teas and delicious pastries. Luke, an avid runner and triathlete, commends their “high quality coffee options and homemade baked goods”. For those of you who like to visit in the afternoon, Lucky’s offers an “ever expanding menu with creative sandwich and soup choices”, in Jim’s words. Anticipating a treat at Lucky’s can be “a great incentive to get out and run, because you know that you can stop at Lucky’s and reward yourself”, says Nancy.
Favorite drinks and food of runners we spoke with include the Fuego del Zorro (a chili-flavored mocha), coffees of all varieties (regular, Americano, latte, cold brew, mocha), popovers with maple butter, breakfast sandwiches, the spinach-feta biscuit, and the avocado toast with pickled onion and a special aioli (garlic mayonnaise).
RJ first tried his favorite Lucky’s drink, the “Party Time” (Mexican coca-cola mixed with root beer) after a tough run: “I just remember feeling so refreshed and relieved . . . to sit down and be like: this is exactly what I wanted, I feel like a wilting flower that has finally been watered again”.
Members of UVRC appreciate the local, independent nature of Lucky’s. Sara toutes the local ingredients and coffee roasters Lucky’s uses. Regarding the building’s history, Luke says “I think it’s cool that they renovated an existing space - the gas station . . . that’s pretty unique”. RJ appreciates this repurposing too from a sustainability perspective. Tim likes how the building’s history shows up in fun details such as shelves made of old engine parts and the license plates on the walls.
The Lucky’s staff are welcoming and seem to find enjoyment and purpose in their jobs. Kristin, a Couch to 5K member, comments how accommodating Lucky’s has been to our larger groups. Nancy has noticed how the Lucky’s staff seem to be working towards a shared mission. Sara appreciates the creativity Lucky’s staff put into their work: “I have a very common name, so when I order coffee, I won’t give the baristas my name, I’ll tell them my name is Batman [to avoid a mix-up with another Sara] . . . Lucky’s draws the most ornate Batman drawings on my cup, and it’s made me very happy during Covid”.
We often attend Lucky’s in large numbers. One Couch to 5K member mentioned how at one gathering we pushed two booths and two tables together. Scott remembers that day, and how one could get lost in all the conversations going on. Scott found it best to stay involved in a conversation with perhaps one other person next to him.
Lucky’s is centrally located in Lebanon, convenient both as a post-run destination and a place to grab a coffee while walking around town or visiting another local spot. Luke has sometimes brought Lucky’s treats to the nearby CCBA playground with his son. Dorcas appreciates Lucky’s location too, and how it caters to all sorts of people recreating on the nearby Rail Trail, from families to others walking, biking, or running.
Lucky’s has adapted to Covid with an easy online ordering system and contactless pickup through the Odeko app or Lucky’s’ online square store.
Pre-Covid times, runners with whom we talked enjoyed the indoor and outdoor seating options at Lucky’s. When Lucky’s reopens for in-person service, the café will be offering expanded patio seating.
Pick up some coffee and a pastry to go for now, and we look forward to the time when we can all meet up at Lucky’s again!
Hannah Taska and Scott King