From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 34 - August 23, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Rock Rabbit moving to Spirits site

by Alecia Warren

The cluster of shops along Pine Street, though never in danger of losing the rustic ambiance assured by Old West facades, will eventually see a different crowd of customers once the humble hippie hub hidden at the edge of town settles in the heart of the commercial region.

Or it will once Spirits of the West, the plank-wood gift shop on Pine Street that’s peddled mountain-man merchandise for the past eight years, closes within upcoming months.

Afterward, the shop will turn its lease over to Rock Rabbit, a popular but cramped cafe long overdue for a makeover to accommodate its throngs of smoothie-craving tourists and locals desperate for their morning caffeine fix.

Sprits of the West’s owner Bill Webb decided to close the shop to focus his energy on the outfitting business he runs on the side, said Gelene Cox, store manager at Spirits of the West for the past two years.

“It’s bittersweet, there’s a lot of me invested in this store,” Cox said, nodding toward the bounty of jewelry and rugs she pushed into the inventory to boost local business during the store’s slow seasons.

“But it’s also simplifying our lives,” Cox said with a smile. “That’s the sweet part.” Cox and Webb will announce an official closing date as soon as people “buy all this stuff,” Cox said, waving at the scattered tables of animal-hide rugs and antler whistles pasted with discount stickers.

Rock Rabbit owner Dan Abernathy said he hopes to move his business to its new location a few blocks down the street sometime between October and November.

The café owner had eyed the space for the past year, and his friends Webb and Cox approached him immediately when they decided to close the gift shop in June.

“If it wasn’t for their love for me, Rock Rabbit wouldn’t be able to expand,” Abernathy said.

The transition is yet another stage in the constant evolution of Rock Rabbit, which Abernathy opened in the early ‘90s as a portrait studio, and throughout the next decade morphed into a graphic design studio, an art gallery and finally a coffee shop three years ago.

“It follows my interests,” he said with a half grin, adding that the incense-flooded shop often featured his own photography, which he will continue to show at the new location.

He stroked his chin as he mused over the changes he anticipates making in the space that is triple the size of his current 900-square-foot café, a cozy refuge for reading Nietzsche or holding erudite conversations, but cramped with tables pushed up against trees of clothing racks.

“We’re maxed out, and we’ve been maxed out for some time,” he said. Abernathy plans to replace the gift shop’s racks of animal furs with several tables and chairs, a new kitchen that will allow him to add breakfast and lunch items to Rock Rabbit’s menu, and an expanded ice cream bar complete with yogurt and gelato.

To the relief of music lovers concerned about where they can take in shows once snow covers the American Legion Park and the Sublette County Library books up with civic group meetings, Abernathy will build a stage in the café that he hopes will become a popular venue for touring acoustic performers. He will also expand the café’s collection of “hippie hardware,” or the full spectrum of tie-dye shirts and billowy skirts lining the café’s walls, and he will add more merchandise with an international import theme.

And, he added, his voice lowering to a hushed purr, he will install a Bordello room. ‘You’ll have to wait and see what that is,” he said with a chuckle.

The atmosphere, though, will remain the same: welcoming to the open-minded and unhurried.

“(Rock Rabbit) seems to be a place people can come and experience something that’s going to bring a smile to their faces,” he said.

“To quote a customer who came in one day, he said to me, ‘without the love, it’d just be coffee,’” Abernathy said. The statement will soon be available on T-shirts in Rock Rabbit.

“That always stayed with me, because we try to be friendly, and I’m a pretty laid-back, happy person, and I hope that carries over to people who come in,” Abernathy said.

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