The Pilgrimer fosters creative community in eastern Nebraska
The Pilgrimer is not a traditional coffee shop.
There are minimal menu items and the only available seating is at one of three large tables. According to one of its founders Ben Harms, the seating is intentional.
“It’s cool to see people sit around and get to know each other and build relationships with people that they never would have met otherwise,” Harms said.
The Pilgrimer, 228 N. 12th St., is intended to inspire collaboration and creation. The idea came to the Lincoln native when he and his wife were living in Seattle. After starting their own photography business, they met several other entrepreneurs and artists.
[column size=”one-half” last=”true”]“We found ourselves going, ‘there should be a place where these people can come together and share in the journey and share what it means to support one another and care for one another,’” Harms said. “In seeing that need, we just thought, well, let’s create it. Let’s start it ourselves and see what happens.”
In addition to offering coffee, The Pilgrimer serves as a storefront for local makers. Local artists and creators from eastern Nebraska are featured for a 30, 60 or 90-day period in the shop. Makers receive 100 percent of their sales. The Pilgrimer currently works with about 15 to 20 vendors.[/column]
“It’s been a really great thing,” Harms said. “We’ve actually had a hard time keeping up with keeping inventory because stuff has been selling really well.”
More than 80 people have signed up for coffee memberships since The Pilgrimer opened on Oct. 20. Memberships are $25 a month and include unlimited cups of locally roasted coffee, cold brew and pourover, seasonal discounts on merchandise, and invitations to Pilgrimer insider events. Without a membership, drinks are about $2 each. The coffee shop was put in place to make The Pilgrimer a financially sustainable nonprofit, Harms said.
“We wanted a community based coffee shop–where you come in and people know your name and you come in consistently,” he said..
[column size=”one-half”]Throughout the fall the shop hosted Makers Market each month, where artists can display more of their products to the community. Makers Market also features live music and food and drink and the next market will take place in April or May. The Pilgrimer is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and for First Fridays.
On Dec. 5, The Pilgrimer featured a project by Adrienne Smart, a studio art graduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her project, titled “Overheard,” consisted of letterpress posters of things Smart overheard people saying.[/column]
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“It’s part of my bigger thesis which is all about how our communication is changing with the development of technology and how we are changing with it,” Smart said. “I did just listen wherever I was to what people were saying and how it was affecting me and what I was pulling from it.”
Smart’s work was displayed at The Pilgrimer during the week of First Friday.
[column size=”one-half” last=”true”]“This was a really great place to be working because they are so interested in helping local artists progress and show their work and sell their work and succeed,” Smart said. “And I wanted to show the work I had in a place where it wasn’t just a stuffy gallery–it was a place where people were talking, where people were existing together.”
Moving forward, The Pilgrimer will continue to host monthly gatherings and workshops for the creative community. The Pilgrimer is working on a new storytelling platform, which they will use to tell the stories of people who call Lincoln home. Harms said they also hope to grow the coffee side of the shop.[/column]
[column size=”one-half”]Above all, The Pilgrimer will continue to foster the pioneering spirit that inspired its name.
“You can see it all over right now,” Harms said. “There’s so many great startups. We have such a culture of progression and trying to create a better world and a better city on behalf of one another. We made up the word Pilgrimer…But I think it really embodies the spirit we want to help propel here, which is empowering people’s stories.”[/column]
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