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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

1983 marked the beginning of an eleven-year run for the Cheers television show. The network almost canceled this beloved sitcom after its first season, because of dismal ratings. The powers that be decided to give it another year. Because of this second chance, Cheers became part of NBC’s Thursday night “Must See TV” lineup. Thank goodness for second chances.

Viewers ended up loving it, but why? Yes, the conversation was clever, and we identified with the characters. But that was true of a lot of shows. Why was Cheers such a hit? I think it was because the writers made the bar seem like a place we all wanted to hang out, regardless of our views on drinking. People walked in and were greeted with warmth and affection. They all knew each other. It was even the name of the song — “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” We couldn’t help but want to be part of a place like that.

When I lived in larger cities, I often got to know a server or a cashier. Sometimes, if I spent enough money, the owner would stop at my table and introduce himself. Of course, I had to keep dropping in and spending my money to keep our so-called friendship afloat. I really had to work at it, if I wanted everybody to remember my name. And it never felt quite like that television show, no matter how hard I tried.

Small towns aren’t that way. Small towns don’t care if you spend a lot of money or know a lot of influential people. They’re more about community and connection. Residents take the time to learn your name and call you by it every time they see you. It’s not who you are, but where you are.

Several years ago, downtown Grand Cane was nothing but a row of vacant buildings. Mayor Marsha Richardson decided to change all that. She approached prospective tenants, offering can’t be beat deals on rent. Next came vendor markets and parades and events in the park. The icing on the cake was the improved parking our mayor scored, with additional spaces and a newly paved front street. Today, as you walk the streets of downtown, you see activity and prosperity. Every building is occupied, and most of the parking is too.

But more importantly, you see community. People greet each other by name, asking for updates on grandchildren and vacations and the health of loved ones. All these events and activities are opportunities to make connections and build on our community spirit. Yes, I can almost hear the theme song from Cheers in the background:

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came. You wanna be where you can see, our troubles are all the same. You wanna be where everybody knows your name.

Thanks to Grand Cane’s mayor, I’m already there.