The main strip in downtown Santa Margarita - where you might expect to see the sheriff walk out of a saloon with his six-shooter or tumbleweeds silently rolling away into a blurry mirage - is a cafe with a friendly dog (Solomon), owner (Dana Cummings), and cool air conditioning.
Cummings refers to his dog, Solomon, as "the Wal-Mart greeter" because people will come by just to say hi to him.
"A lot of people think the name of the store is the dog, but it's a hint towards my belief," said Cummings.
Cummings opened Solomon's Porch in July 2004 and named it after a biblical story where people could meet to talk freely at King Solomon's temple.
Cummings has traveled all over the world as a software engineer and spent many mornings at cafes, which sparked his interest to open his own.
"I gathered ideas from the cafes I've been to. Traveling gave me a vision of how I could arrange my store," said Cummings. "I thought if I ever wanted out [of engineering], I could just open a shop."
Cummings did get out, but not because he gathered enough ideas to open a cafe. His career change was the result of a car accident that led to the amputation of his left leg from the knee down and permanent injuries to his right ankle and Achilles tendon.
Cummings was on his way to work at UCSB with his three kids and was hit in his car while driving through Gaviota.
"It's changed my whole life. If I focus for too long I get a firing pain sensation up my leg, so with the cafe business I can move around and sit when I need a break. I never would have taken this step had I not lost my leg," said Cummings.
Since then Solomon's life has changed as well: he has been trained as a licensed service and therapy dog. Cummings takes Solomon to nursing homes where he interacts with the elderly and puts smiles on their faces.
"Unfortunately, peoples' families just dump them off; this is just a way to give back. If people want a dog to come visit them, I would be happy to bring him in because it makes peoples' day," said Cummings.
Solomon's Cafe will put a smile on your face, too. The cafe offers a full coffee bar, wine, beer, and many food options. You can join in on barbecue tri-tip and a free movie every Saturday night, or check out live music Friday evenings, and new art is displayed monthly from local artists.
For more info, call Dana at 438-3376, or come by the cafe, located at 22322-B El Camino Real in Santa Margarita.
... San Luis Obispo County's only nonprofit children's dental clinic, La Clinica de Tolosa, which opened for business in July 2003, recently celebrated its second anniversary. Founded by Partnership for the Children Foundation of SLO County, La Clinica serves children age 3-13 from low-income and uninsured families throughout the Central Coast. Many of these children suffer through pain while eating and often miss school as a result. The goal of La Clinica is to offer a full range of emergency, restorative, and preventive dentistry. The clinic now sees about 400 children each month. For an appointment or more info, call La Clinica at 238-5334....
... Steve Eabry, a polarity therapist and Esalen massage practitioner, has been offering touch therapy service since August 1985 in the licensed therapy room of his home. Eabry is a vocal advocate of the benefits of massage, and acknowledges the importance of the nurturing touch that many families may be lacking in their lives. To schedule a massage or for related info, call 544-1096.
Intern Jesse Over compiled this week's Strokes &Plugs. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.