There are some things all people share, and one of them is the desire to be a “local.” We all want to have a place to gather, to be surrounded by the familiar, to be connected in some small way to those we rub shoulders with--to be known. The Pilgrimer, started by Ben Harms and his wife Whitney, along with a handful of their good friends, is a kind of hybrid of a non-profit coffee shop, local market, art gallery, and in some ways, a public living room. It’s not an easy establishment to categorize, but the Pilgrimer’s purpose is clear: to be a sharing space for creators and entrepreneurs, and a gathering space for everyone else--all for the good of the Lincoln community.
Ben is an entrepreneur and creative designer at heart, with a great passion for people. The idea for the Pilgrimer was largely inspired by the “collaborative space” movement that started gaining traction while the Harms’ were living in Seattle. They returned to his hometown of Lincoln with a desire to create a shared space for creatives and entrepreneurial makers here--and to foster real conversation and love of neighbors at the same time.
In October, they opened the Pilgrimer at 228 N. 12th Street, next to Dempsey’s Burger Pub (in the old Spaghetti Works building). It did not take long for them to catch on with the close-knit artisan community in Lincoln. Even prior to the official opening, as details were still falling into place, the team had the space, and decided to hold the first Maker’s Market. Building on a few connections the team had to local makers, the Pilgrimer quickly drew several people wanting to share and sell their goods. Over 500 people showed up for the Market--far beyond the team’s expectations.
Since then, the Pilgrimer has held Maker’s Markets on First Fridays. The next Maker’s Market won’t be until spring, but local goods will continue to be featured at the store, rotating on a weekly basis, throughout the winter. Ben and his team love to discover artisans who have great ideas and may just be making their products in their home with no consistent way to market them--and they especially love to share the stories of these makers.
That’s actually a huge aspect of the Pilgrimer’s direction for the future--storytelling. You can easily put a face to the product makers already, via their “Meet the Makers” Instagram posts, but the stories of these Lincoln artists will be coming to life in a very cool way, starting in January. (Keep an eye on their website! www.thepilgrimer.com)
The Pilgrimer also has what all downtown gathering places should have--places to sit and work, and access to a really good cup of coffee made with beans from local roasters. Ben calls it the best cup of coffee in town--because they learned the art of brewing great coffee from the world-class brewing folks at Cultiva. For $25 a month you can purchase a coffee membership--unlimited coffee or tea. They also sell coffee for $2 per cup.
The Pilgrimer team has a rich array of other ideas about how to engage the community in creative ways that speak to the variety of needs in Lincoln, but with a small (very busy!) staff that relies on donations, they are limited to what they can do well right now. Ben would love to see the Pilgrimer become volunteer-staffed so his team can focus on developing relationships with more makers and digging into new ideas.
Lots of people are getting excited about what’s happening in the old Spaghetti Works building, and there’s a very simple reason why. “It’s a beautiful opportunity to help support local people who are making Lincoln a better, more beautiful place and loving their neighbors well,” Ben says.
Get Involved: Want to volunteer for a few hours on a weekday--brew coffee; sell the local goods; hang out with people? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Open 7 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday
Shopping for Gifts? Locally hand-made products make great gifts year-round, and 100% of the proceeds go directly to the maker. Check out www.thepilgrimer.com for a list of their featured artists, or head to 12th and P for a visit. For the special person in your life who loves shopping local artisans, they offer PilgriBucks (in $5 increments). And who wouldn’t want unlimited, expertly-brewed coffee for a month ($25)?