Our Stone Soup Story
You can find numerous versions of the folk tale Stone Soup. From Peoria
to Persia, the story has continued to be passed from generation to generation,
each version told with its own slant, ornamentations and variations,
depending on the country and the company it keeps.
And so goes our version of this popular, familiar tale:
Six years past the new millennium, there came an energetic traveler
looking for a place to meet others who were hungry for good books to
read, fresh food to eat and a charming place to gather. She came from
the frenetic congestion of the North to the town of Waynesboro, on the
South River in the Shenandoah Valley.
Like most small towns of the time, the inhabitants
were impoverished - rarely gathering to sit and talk or eat slowly enough
to savor fresh peaches. In this particular instance, it was doubly so,
for the nearby Super Stores and Fast Fooderies had been conducting a
war on “local” for some time, taking a heavy toll on this
land and its people. Many had never known the pleasures of spending
time browsing in a bookstore, so accustomed were they to search engines
doing their browsing for them.
The traveler, a dreamer and determined sort, spent
hours of walking with her dog Mo, occasionally joined by Dinah, a local
musician who also had a penchant for dreaming, looking for a way to
create her dream. Then, one day the traveler came upon an abandoned
house on a hill and imagined a bookstore – a gathering place for
savoring good books and good friends. She convinced her husband, a handy
and adventurous part-cowboy from Texas to join in the project and rebuild
the 115 year-old place and include many bookshelves. As the renovation
got underway, Emily, another traveler to the region, helped collect
and catalog books old and new, piles and piles of them, stacked everywhere
in the traveler’s home.
“We need to serve coffee in our bookstore,”
“I like tea. And could we also have something
to eat?” asked another.
They emailed friends and family and got back these
replies: “Soup and good bread go nicely with books,” and
“salads, please.” Then came a particularly endearing text
message from their daughter: “u need choco chip cookies”,
a suggestion they rather liked.
“Yes! yes!, a bookstore AND café”, said the determined
dreamer to her willing craftsman, “with a lovely garden all around.”
The traveler, now a settler, looked at the calendar
and declared the store must open before the end of the year. The maples
on Pine Street were turning red, already. And though the kitchen was
taking shape and the garden was being planted, there was no menu, no
chef. “You’ve got to have faith,” she told herself,
and many others. Curious neighbors were more than pleased to see the
progress and even brought items they thought the new place needed like:
a red tricycle, a hanging birdbath, a mirror and an iron rabbit.
She remembered a story she once read, about a hungry stranger, come
to town weary and met with a wary welcome. How with patience and faith
he was able to pull the town together and create a fine soup for all.
Recalling this story encouraged the dreamer, as many stories have the
power to do, and inspired the name, Stone Soup Books & Café.
The other ‘ingredients’ were coming together such as art
for the walls and recipes and music, and yes, even chef Laura, another
dreamer, and a soup cook or two.
Life is not a fairy tale and neither is our Stone Soup story. It is
full of trials, tribulations, discussions and difficult decisions. Life
is messy; it isn’t pristine at all. But while we know this, there
are times when it seems we have been blessed with the truth of the folk
When many add to the pot, we’ve got a lot.
That is the beauty of faith and of this bookstore and café,
a place of gathering community.