By Jenna Quentin Newton Kansan

Coffee bar, tea lounge, café. Those words invoke rich steamy drinks, tranquility, a meeting place. Local coffeehouses fill a key role, not just in our individually warmed hearts, but in our community.

I'll Be Waiting There

Druber's Daylight Donuts has an iconic presence in the area, and even the country. Late on a Friday night, four Hesston College students wait in line, laughing and goofing off. Amber and Lily, from Ill. and Iowa, said they came for fun, the unique squid donuts and special peanut butter rolls. Connor from Pa., likes the community and the ambiance.

"It's a tradition," said Rachel from N.C. Her parents' also went to Hesston and she likes going to their old haunt.

College and high school kids were looking something to do, a place to hang out with friends, said co-Owner Marilyn Norris. The previous owner started opening at night and the Norris family has continued for the last 25 years ago. On weekdays, it's a gathering place for different groups at different times.

Local government and business people can often be found at Karen's Kitchen, get a bite after a meeting and chatting.

Many a freelancer knows the joy of working in a WIFI-equipped café. Beth Beurge is an interior designer and mother of three. "When I'm in my home office, even with a babysitter, the kids know I'm there." She enjoys the quiet and ability to focus that cafés like Norm's or Mojo's give her...fancy drinks and seeing people she knows are perks too.

The coffeehouse kinship atmosphere extends to bakeries and restaurants, like The Breadbasket. Co-Owner Barry Lehman said they host the Council of Governments, Lyons meetings, Kiwanis board, a half dozen men's prayer groups, Sunday school classes, Curves groups, Re Hat ladies and more.

Why You Don't Take Me Downtown

Coffeeshops don't just draw people together, they draw them downtown. Over time, large retail stores have left such as JC Penny's and Sears.

Do people come to eat and then buy something, or do they shop and get hungry? It's a chicken and egg question, says Prairie Harvest co-owner Carrie Van Sickle. "My theory is we no longer shop like we used to." Van Sickle SAID her mother grew up in the Depression. When shopping, they didn't buy something the first time they saw it. Her mother scouted out availability and prices, not buying things that weren't on the list. It was shopping versus buying.

Van Sickle encourages people to see what local businesses offer. Prairie Harvest has homemade baked goods, bread, cinnamon rolls and peppernuts, as well as a great selection of Kansas grown items, organic grocery and natural personal care items. Prairie Harvest also hosts events such as a Valentine's dinner for 42 people.

Pandea Smith at the Tea Leaf Lounge said she doesn't see much crossover business; customers seem to go the store they were headed to. She offers over 100 loose leaf teas, as well as coffee, lunch and pastries by Crust & Crumb.

Karen Walton of Karen's Kitchen says she feels she gets business from Layman's Antique Mall next door. People go on day trips or exit the Interstate looking for the Main Street fare Karen's offers. Gifts, clocks, vintage toys and novelty gag items add to the charm of the home town café style.

Norm's hosts Friday Night Live, with local and traveling musicians, drawing a good crowd. Robert Palmer said making music events available was one of their goals on opening. Norm's large square footage is arranged in living room spaces, making it conducive to groups. A conference room is also available.

With their brunch buffet, the Breadbasket is one of the few places open on Sunday. If people don't want chain restaurant food, they come downtown. The Breadbasket also take reservations and cater, either at events or prepared for folks to pickup.

This is not an exhaustive list of the great places to connect and relax in the Newton area. Go find your favorite. And it might be a prejudiced opinion, but no donuts taste as good as Druber's.