We have questions.
Gerald Edson has answers.
I’ve been here in the TARDIS, unintentionally eavesdropping on conversations for roughly four months. In that time, a few questions seem to pop up more often than others, particularly if it’s someone’s first time here.
“How long has this place been here?”
“Are these books for sale?”
“Why the ‘Raven’?”
Respectively: since 2000; no, but we do have some wonderfully shabby books for sale in the downstairs hall; and I’ve got the story on that.
Let’s go back to 1993.
This is what this building used to look like.
Neither do I. It’s hard to imagine Military Street without the bust of the Raven hanging out over the sidewalk. But there it is, nonetheless. The building that would become one of our favorite places.
“It used to be the worst-looking building in Port Huron. This place was vacant in ’93.”
This used to be a place called Jesus Lighthouse. Right next door was Satan’s Bookstore. I’m not making this up. Both are actually included on the building history timeline featured in the foyer.
Jesus Lighthouse lasted about a year, and Satan’s Bookstore was burned down.
Someone that Gerald knew had actually inherited the building at 932 Military. He bought it and set to work.
He recalls that the best days of his life were the ones spent as a student at the University of Michigan.
“Students need a place where they can go for a coffee and intellectual conversation. I realize that this is not Ann Arbor. But there are enough people in the area that need somewhere like this to go; cultural, literary, somewhere with art.”
He knew that there would be enough people interested in a place like this to make it work.
While renovating the interior of the cafe, Gerald was ruminating over a name. He knew that he wanted something literary. Initially he was thinking something related to Dickens, but nothing really stuck.
He ended up running a contest to see what the best name suggestion was.
The one that kept turning up over and over again was the Raven. He’d actually thought of that one, but it had seemed too obvious. However, the public had spoken. The Raven it was.
It was an ad in a trade magazine that prompted him to begin using Raven’s Brew coffees. He was impressed by the graphics for Deadman’s Reach, and the slogan of “Raven’s Brew, the last legal high” caught his attention.
It turned out to be amazing coffee. He had hired an expert consultant to assist with many aspects of the cafe, and this consultant also happened to be a professional taste tester. Gerald had samples sent over, and Raven’s Brew Coffee was quickly deemed a favorite by an expert in the field.
The books were acquired at an opera house.
Gerald saw an ad in the paper advertising 300,000 antique books for sale. He called and was directed to the Carsonville Opera House.
Picture a movie theater, empty of seats and replaced by boxes of books.
(Sounds amazing, right?)
The ad exaggerated slightly; the quantity of books was more in the ballpark of 100,000. Gerald ended up with about 80,000 books.
At the time, he had a used book store on the corner of Stone and Stanton. He narrowed the books down to 15,000. The store only lasted about a year; no one was buying books. He turned the store into a bigger office, and narrowed the books down again to about 8,000.
Those books are the ones that ended up in the Raven.
These days, Gerald is living the retired life.
He’s still an avid reader, and meets up with old friends and acquaintances.
You can still catch him in the Raven from time to time, engaging in intellectual conversations and (sometimes) political debates.
We had a great conversation about the benefits of a diet focused more on vegetables, among other things.
Thank you Gerald.
I absolutely agree that “Nowhere else around is like this place.”
-Jessica, your Media Specialist