Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: 1 coffee shop at a time |

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: 1 coffee shop at a time

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos

These are the reminders of why I came here: the painted wine bottles in the window sill; the Christmas lights draped from corner to corner across the red ceiling; my roommate peering over her large foamy latte to hide her people watching; and the couples bundled up for a cozy Sunday stroll.

As I look out the coffee shop window, this street holds so many memories of my time in Denver so far.

This coffee shop in particular used to be new to me, and so did the restaurant across the street, the flower shop next door, the last stop neighborhood bar at the end of the road and those mysterious neighbor boys.

Six months in to my adventure in Denver and they have all become home to me.

Now, we can get those incredible Squeaky Bean shirred egg sandwiches on Saturday mornings even though they are only available on the weekdays — thanks, Nick.

Now, we can't walk out our front door without a hello and wave or hearing something like, 'You left your cheese grater at the house after brunch,' from one of our neighbors — thanks Logan, Matt and Dave.

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For me, it is not about being recognized around the neighborhood. It's about the community knowing my story.

In other words, it's about being the girl from Craig with a very large Greek family who loves pinot noir wine, walks to the coffee shop nearly every Saturday around 11 a.m. and seems to always come home with much more than a latte.

When I moved to San Diego, I was eager to embark on my new adventure, but at the same time leaving behind my name and familiarities was intimidating.

This is the reason that becoming a regular at the local spots was at the top of my list upon arriving in San Diego.

I may have looked like a country girl trying to mesh with the city, but in the end those morning coffee runs and late night conversations after closing provided the smiles and introductions I needed to make me feel at home.

Maybe I disclose my life story to soon or put exploration to far at the top of my priorities, but I believe that it is reciprocated well enough to at least get an inspiring conversation, drink on the house and make a new friend.

While my roommate and I have become regulars at a few quaint spots around town and become familiar with the ways of the city, we still can't help but say we are new to the city.

"How long are we going to use that line?" my roommate asks every time I drop the line.

"I think it's valid for at least a year," I say.

On one hand, we say we are new to the ins and outs of the best spots in the city. On the other, it's a great conversation starter.

When you are new to something, whether it's a city, school, organization, neighborhood or job, there are endless questions to be answered, conversations to indulge in and opportunities to explore.

It might be wrong, but I've convinced myself and others that I'm still the new girl on the block.

This is so I have an excuse and a reason to explore the city and never lose sight of my desire for unique experiences.

Just as much as I love the feeling of new and unfamiliar, I love the feeling of old and familiar.

But, to have the comfort and contentment of familiar, you must be fearless in testing out the new, so your new experiences become familiar and your familiar experiences inspire you to discover something new every day.

Mari Katherine Raftopoulos can be reached at

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