I don’t have a lot of childhood memories of The Huckleberry, Montreat’s snack bar at Moore Center right on Lake Susan. I do remember being in there once as a teenager with some friends, awaiting milkshakes on order, and the poor server being so distracted by all the chatter that the machine sprayed ice cream all over him and his work station. We feasted on the story far longer than we did the ice cream.
Otherwise, I really hadn’t given The Huck much thought in recent years, and yet the pandemic has prompted a new focus on community spaces on our campus and the opportunities they present going forward. We reported at the summer’s outset that Montreat College had not renewed its lease to run the Huck and that this season would represent a transition toward a new start. There were just too many other adjustments happening this year to get the Huck up and running in time, and the pause in service gives us a chance to evaluate the Huck’s potential for the future and to chart the right course.
Making the right choices are important because The Huck clearly plays an important role in Montreat, certainly in the summer months and increasingly year-round. In June I circulated a survey, and early results indicate a strong affinity for The Huck, past and present. Montreaters enjoy its convenience for affordable food and drink, as a place to rendezvous with friends and neighbors, and as a spot to relax and hang out between various activities. Among the offerings, ice cream receives the most mentions, and the porch overlooking the dam not surprisingly earns raves as a quiet perch. When asked for ideas for improvement, healthier food offerings are encouraged by several respondents. (How we reconcile those comments with the love for ice cream remains a riddle, I suppose; if a divinely inspired, plant-based frozen treat is out there, apparently we need to find it.)
The Huck’s potential, however, reaches well beyond food. Its central location remains a prime spot to attract the various members of our community into town. Designed properly, a new Huck would function as an added attraction for conference center guests, a viable setting for special events, and a hub that would augment the other activities at Moore Center in particular and life around the lake in general. As we’ve been reminded this summer, there really isn’t another space in Montreat offering the same advantages and possibilities.
The survey link that we published earlier in the summer is still live, and we’d still love to hear your thoughts if you haven’t already shared them. Our goal is to reopen the Huck next summer, so planning will soon begin and decisions will be made in earnest. Take a few minutes to think about the possibilities and help us create a new destination and dimension to the Montreat experience. Finding the appropriate recipe for the new Huck – and its role in relation to its surroundings – represents a great opportunity to bring people together in Montreat. It’s already a place where people want to be, and to be together – and it can serve that role better than it has. New is not the enemy of the old, but rather how we preserve and steward the original vision. The assets of our campus require ongoing attention and response, facilities wear out and people change, and so the job is never done. Remaining open and flexible to that reality is essential in our collective desire to serve our mission and ministry in the years ahead.
Montreat Conference Center