Since its inception in 2011, Coffee Bandits has always drawn in locals and creatives alike to gather and swap stories, ideas, and more over a cup of joe. Located at 309 West Main Street in the shadow of the Historic Theatre Tower in Downtown Merced, this strong focus on the arts and social creativity is often cited as what makes Coffee Bandits stand out from other establishments. For Coffee Bandits founder Melissa Eisner, the shop’s ability to bring people from all walks of life together isn’t just another positive quality of the business, it’s the foundation.
“Coffee shops are historically social locations, where ideas are exchanged and progress achieved. The arts are inherently part of that; in fact, I doubt if any effective social change can be achieved without arts involved,” Eisner explained. She went on to say that while talking at meetings is certainly useful, the opportunity to see what type of art a person creates can lend insight into their perspective in a way that not much else can. “So when I made my coffee shop with the explicit goal of being a creative hub and intersection point for different walks of Merced life, the arts were fundamentally involved.”
As years have passed, the arts that have become involved in Coffee Bandits day-to-day operation have only grown. From the hundreds of paintings that have adorned the walls over the years and the countless local zines that the shop has housed to the live music, poetry readings and open mic nights, it’s just a matter of residents choosing a day to find something creative they’d like to enjoy. When asked about that importance of covering such a wide breadth of arts in the coffeeshop, Eisner noted that as it applies to the arts, she sees two important roles that they can play, and works to ensure that everyone has something they can relate to, to enjoy those two roles. “The two major components of my artistic philosophy deal with the internal and the social benefits,” Eisner stated. “The importance of art internally to the artist is best summarized in a quote by the late Louise Bourgeois: ‘Art is a guarantee of sanity…The act of creation is a stabilizing force for the psyche; it brings to reality that which was suspected to be only hallucination.’ It functions like an anti-gaslight, if you will.”
When discussing the social benefits of art, Eisner went on to note that art has the unique ability to exist in an artist’s head in an intangible form prior to creation, and when brought into the world for others to experience a rare type of communication begins to occur. “It's in this gap, between existence and non-existence, that all communication takes place. What all art allows us to do is put aside conventions of propriety and communicate in a purely visceral way,” Eisner said. “This is why it can be so difficult to explain or rationalize why we love what art we love, and why it feels to incomplete to say a work of art ‘just speaks’ to us.” She went on to say that it’s at this point that a very powerful and hard-to-control dialogue begins to occur, whether it is verbal or non-verbal in nature. “It can inspire great change in the world, because it allows us to truly understand one another.”
phone: (209) 383-1200
309 W. Main St, Merced CA