The Old Curmudgeon: Poor as a church mouse – Rich in faith, family and friends

August 2015 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

The Old CurmudgeonVern Holmquist teamed up with managing editor Kristine Thomas for this interview and story.

It was during a long conversation with Cyndi Hickman, owner of the Main Street Bistro & Coffee that I discovered how we both have a deep and endearing love for Silverton, good music and great food. I have been so taken by how Cyndi and her husband, James, have worked hard to make a difference in Silverton. And after listening to her share why she decided to purchase Branches & Bloom and then the coffee shop 18 months ago, I learned quickly not only does this amazing lady have an abundant amount of energy but also a deep faith and a strong belief in doing what she can to make her little corner of the world a better place.

Cyndi and Jim grew up in Silverton, graduating from Silverton High School in 1986. Her four kids grew up here too. The entire time she was living in Silverton she was commuting to Salem for her job as the general manager at a health food store. About five years ago, she moved to Salem. It was 18 months ago that she got an inkling she wanted to start her own business. She said the children of the owners of the health food store were the right age to begin working in their family business and it was her job to train the children how to run the company.

At the same time, she began thinking about opening a country western bar and steakhouse in Salem. Yet every attempt to do so was met with one challenge after another.

While perusing craigslist, she found an ad that Branches & Bloom was for sale. She went to look at the flower shop, yet every time she tried the doors to the coffee shop were locked. She shared with the building’s owner that she didn’t think it would work, and that’s when they offered her the opportunity to purchase the coffee shop. Unfortunately, when she showed up the first day to start at the coffee shop, there was a U-Haul truck being loaded with every piece of equipment and furniture.

“My voice bounced off the walls because it was so empty,” Cyndi said.

Feeling defeated, she went home and told her husband that she couldn’t do it. That’s when she learned her husband was listening to what she had been saying.

“He told me to wait a minute and then repeated all the reasons I had told him I wanted to open the coffee and flower shop,” Cyndi said. “He said all the things I had said like “Have faith, not fear” and “Trust in the Lord.” He asked me if I really believed what I was saying and if I did believe that I was meant to open the business, then I shouldn’t let one hurdle stop me.”

The next day at the shop, her family showed up and prayed with her. Little by little, what she needed was offered including The Green Store providing all the needed equipment. “Because of them, we were able to open in 48 hours,” she said. “Every time I asked, the Lord provided. Every single piece of furniture was given to us by friends, neighbors and even customers. The table I had my first date with my husband is here. A group of men who meet here daily found the table they sit at. Our neighbors thought my husband and I were getting a divorce because they kept seeing all the furniture leaving our house.”

All the little details point to what Cyndi wants the most for her business – for it to be a place anyone and everyone feels welcome. She wants it to be Silverton’s living room.

“I want it to be a place we eat together, dance together, sing together,” she said.

In the midst of working 15 to 20 hour days, a young man, Andrew, stopped by on a Sunday to share with Cyndi he was worried she wasn’t making it to church. The first Sunday, he played his guitar and sang. The next, a young woman stopped by. Sunday by Sunday, the group grew. That is one reason Cyndi decided to move to the Wolf Building’s larger space. Beautiful Gate meets at 8 a.m. each Sunday. “It’s people from every denomination who get together for music, Bible study and community,” Cyndi said.

A professional singer for 45th Fret, Cyndi has sang on stages throughout the United States and has open for national acts. She has lots of plans to bring in musical acts, dancing lessons, game nights and more.

Being in the Wolf Building will allow Cyndi to continue her business plan, including adding European Bistro lunches and Italian dinners. The upstairs room seats 100 and can be used for weddings, birthdays and more.

“We can cater, you can have a potluck or hire another cater,” she said. “We just want people to use the room.”

“I feel so much like the mouse in Cinderella,” she said. “I keep working as fast as I can to get everything done and I get to live in a palace. I may be as poor as a church mouse but feel rich with all the blessings I have.”

With a huge smile and lots of happiness, Cyndi shares she can’t take the credit for what’s happening at The Wolf Building. It happened because she believed it is what the Lord wanted her to do and because she’s blessed with many friends and a supportive family.

“This truly has been a walk of faith,” she said. “It’s been an amazing journey. I really do feel like the mouse in Cinderella.”


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