PENDLETON - The Free Speech Cafe has opened at Local Harvest Natural Foods, 24 S.E. Emigrant Ave.
Owners Ben and Judy Talley have added seating for up to 20 people, using booths and seats from one of Pendleton's former downtown theaters.
Ben Talley describes the cafe as a "participatory area" that is open Fridays and Saturdays from noon to midnight. He sees it as a small venue for local acoustic music, spoken word, mime and art. It also is being set up as Pendleton's first wireless Internet cafe, he said.
"One aspect of Local Harvest Natural Foods that we have come to value most is the power of the gathering place - an old-fashioned commons or local pub - where folks can gather, share food and drink, listen and talk about things that matter to us," Talley said.
Lunch, dinner and take-out food are available, he said. Menu items include sushi, sockeye rolls, black beans with rice and tortillas, green salads, buffalo sausage dogs, black bean soup, brown rice, veggie wraps and custom party trays. Beverages available include teas, chai tea, soy milk, natural sodas, and organic beers and wines for package sale.
Live music, poetry and open microphone sessions will be scheduled from time to time, according to Talley.
"We are going to leave it up to our customers to determine what they want," he said.
Meanwhile, the Talleys continue to operate a scaled-down Local Harvest Natural Foods in the same space from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Local Harvest Natural Foods sprang from the Talleys' passion to promote safe, local, and affordable natural foods when they opened the store in late 2002.
"Along the way, we found that making a welcoming atmosphere for our growing number of new friends and a place for them to gather and meet expanded on our original vision," Talley said. "Even though we have enjoyed tremendous support from a strong base of loyal customers, we have not yet been able to make a financial go of this venture. The income of the store has kept the doors open, but we've worked all this time for no pay."
The Talleys are hoping supporters of their grocery venture will buy Local Harvest Natural Foods and form a natural foods cooperative or buying club. If that doesn't happen, they're planning a clearance sale of most existing merchandise later this month.
"Along with the Free Speech Cafe, we will continue to retail our all-natural USDA meats, fresh organic produce, beers, wines and sushi," he said, adding that the sushi contains no raw fish.