By Netera Landar
Coffee shops are universal. Even on Second Life it’s natural for us to search for them. They are a quiet place out of the way of high traffic where we can be alone or gather with friends. I remember one that was modeled after the main characters’ favorite hang out in the TV show “Friends.” The Breakers coffee shop is where residents meet weekly to discuss activities in the weeks to come and VAI Sanctuary has a colorful, easy to access, coffee shop.
Then there’s Beau Belle (Beau Belle (40, 121, 24 – Moderate). In a multi-level stone build, you’ll find a coffee shop with both conversational areas and a stage for live music. Every Saturday and Sunday musical performances are held from 10 a.m. until noon. Each musician performs once every two weeks. Every two months, a jazz trio takes the stage from 1:30 to 3 p.m. There are games in the basement, such as Greedy and Mahjong and weekly theme parties.
The current owners are May O. Mingzi and Kelly Cross. After a weekend performance, I asked May about the history of the coffee shop. I learned that it all began with Bluebell Broome and Teesa Beattie. The original owners met on the sim Hallelujah. After it changed ownership, they grew disheartened by how the creative design and community spirit had drastically changed and decided to move on and make plans for their own place. This quickly evolved from a plot of land with rental homes to a new sim with rentals.
“It’s now the beach area of Beau Belle, by the beach houses, and back as far as the tunnel,” May explained. “Most of the rest of the sim was empty, apart from a giant Gothic castle in the adjacent quarter (where the Leonard Cohen Club now stands).
Continued expansion led to their purchase of a half and then full sim. More houses were built and added and social venues were established. Bluebell concentrated on custom made buildings that incorporated special features which were ideal for their vision, while Teesa was responsible for managing the rentals, slating events and later iMatch.
“One of the principles Tessa and Bluebell were keen on was to have many places of interest, and to find new and unique ways to make a sim,” said May. “For example, all residents of the island get their own personal sky islands in the clouds, free with their home rent.”
She continued, “One big focus was Belle’s, designed to be a coffee shop, a meeting place with comfy chairs to sit and chat in, an event’s venue, and it was entirely custom-made to fit into the space, with a basement for games, restaurant, and several entrances. The popular Leonard Cohen Club was built by Harry Canned (also an original resident of the Hallelujah sim). Since May and Kelly took over ownership, they have carried on the custom-build with a philosophy with a popular dance club in the sky, amongst other things.
Two competing factors influenced the layout. One was staying true to a traditional English-style coastal village. It was important to introduce building on the same scale and matching styles with appropriate textures. There was also the goal of the island operating as a business with tier proceeds defraying the expenses of the sim. Therefore, home and shop rentals had to be promoted. Positioning homes with views of the sea, and visible to guests who visit the island, encouraged rental.
“In addition, they felt it desirable to lay out the land to encourage community – link it all together with paths, and have many interesting little places (such as ruins, a mountain, cars to drive, gypsy caravan, art galleries in the tower) which encourage people to explore and meet one another,” said May.
While venues are an effective way to bring people together, they are only successful when performances are scheduled. Belle’s performance schedule is located on the Beau Belle website under the events tab. Log on to http://beaubellevillage.ning.com for show notices or on Beau Belle’s Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/BeauBelleSL. Kay and Kelly host all the shows at Belle’s. Kelly also hosts the DJs at Kelly’s Closet dance club and May assists. Guests are also encouraged to gather with friends in the upper terrace’s seating areas and dining room.
Taking it a step further, iMatch helps to introduce people with similar interests. The service was created by former sim co-owner Teesa Beattie, and is located right next door to the café. It brings together friends or future partners with similar interests. The process begins with applicants filling out a form and depositing it in an application box. Kelly and May then check the box every couple of days. They review the applications, photos and brief description, and post them on the appropriate boards. Then the applicants contact the individuals they are interested in. If they wish to be removed, they simply drop a notecard in the box and Kelly or May remove them from those displayed.
You can also check out the Leonard Cohen Club and Kelly’s Closet dance club, which are located on the sim. The privately owned venues have DJs who arrange their gigs and present music inspired by the club. Both help contribute to the sim’s activities.
Should you be interested in living at Beau Belle sim, residential rates were 200L a week for a small cottage and 1,000L a week for a beach house, when this interview was conducted. Check with the sim owners if there have been rate increases or for cottage and beach house availability. All homes come with their private sky islands. Rates can be adjusted by prim needs. There may also be store rentals available.