Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Small Town Story

Da Kind Soups here in Evergreen is small town business at its best.  Sample any of their two hundred homemade soups and you'll know: they're here to provide excellent food to the community they live in and love.  In their first year, Denver's premier magazine, 5280, named them "Top of the Town" in Soup, an accolade not easily won but clearly deserved.

Their menu is simple: each day, they offer ten of their homemade soups alongside five sandwich choices.  Dustin and Ariane Speck, the owners and chefs, are warm and welcoming, greeting their customers by name and providing limitless samples of the day's soups to aid the impossible decision.  They are careful to offer soup options that are vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or dairy free for those patrons on restricted diets, though taste never suffers from the omission.  In the spirit of small town warmth, they celebrate the store's anniversary by giving away their soup and bread for free all day.

Above all, they value their customers.  They once forgot to give me a sandwich in my to-go order, and  when I returned the next week for another meal, they gave me the entire meal for free: soup and sandwiches for three on the house to make up for an innocent (and rare) mistake.  I hadn't said a word about the missing sandwich.

Though I was never a soup person before, I've converted.  The kids and I frequent Da Kind almost weekly.  It has heart and soul, ingredients missing from many enterprises these days, even other places in Evergreen.  They operate by their motto, "Live a kind life."

This is a place you crave for the flavor but return to for the community.

It was crushing, then, to learn that Dustin, who creates every recipe and makes every batch of soup himself, suffered from subarachnoid hemorrhaging (bleeding on the brain) a few weeks ago.  Beyond the  chef at the store, he is the father to the couple's two elementary-age boys.  I looked up the term on-line and found the statistics grim: in half of cases, the bleeding results in death.  Of the half who survive, many suffer significant loss in physical or cognitive facility.  When I heard the news, he was still in ICU and though his prognosis looked good, things were still touch and go.  Risks of additional bleeding or other complications kept him under the close eye of doctors and staff.  My heart was heavy--for him, for his family, for the store, for the town.  They are at the heart of Evergreen.  Their loss is everyone's loss.

The shop closed for a few days around the event, but then reopened with a message on their billboard announcing, "Soup man's down but spirits are high."  The shop's employees, who are loyal to the shop and its customers, worked hard to carry the extra burden of work while Dustin remained in ICU and Ariane attempted to take care of him and her boys and the store's responsibilities.  The billboard was updated occasionally with messages indicating Dustin was doing well or offering gratitude for people's support.

When I went in yesterday to get dinner, I'll admit it was as much to find out how he was doing as to bring home a tasty meal.  Before I could ask, Ariane, who seemed to have stopped in briefly but been roped in to help with the dinner rush, told me Dustin is coming home today.  More remarkably, he returns home without a single deficit.  There will be no physical therapy, no occupational therapy.  He has no memory loss, no mental compromise.  He comes home as healthy as he last left.  It is the very best news.

They'll have to keep his activity-level low for a while as his body continues to heal and recover, but it sounds like he'll be back behind the counter, every bit himself, in time.  I left overjoyed for them, for their family, for the store, and for our town.

In two short years, they have become fixtures here.  We feel that we know them, that they know us--to the extent that it's possible over the exchange of warm soup and a smile.  We have come to depend on them not only to feed our bodies but to feed our souls in their simple, kind way.  By all accounts, they have experienced a miracle.  And their miracle is everyone's miracle.

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