Morning Coffee, Connell
Connell was the base of my early photographic expeditions in eastern Washington, and the largest (pop. 5000) of the towns I visited. It has both upper middle-income and lower middle-income neighborhoods, two large mobile home parks that are a little scruffy, and a big RV facility. A large central park with a pool, well-equipped children’s playground, skateboard park, picnic area and ball fields is widely used by all. Large modern schools anchor the west side of town. Churches are sprinkled throughout the residential neighborhoods. Businesses (several with signs in Spanish) include: auto parts store, grocery, laundromat (with pool tables), gas station (with a mini mart), antique store, tavern, bar, beauty parlor, eateries of different ilk, empty store fronts, a heritage museum open one afternoon a week (but I never found it so), abandoned gas stations, banks, ag supply store, ag labor center, movie theater that is open three nights a week, small weekly newspaper, grain storage and distribution facilities and a potato processing plant and more. What is missing: crime (it is reported to be the safest city in the state), major medical facilities (however a clinic is under construction and I did see one MD’s office), drive through coffee stands, graffiti, big box stores and their kin, stop lights, and higher education.
Even though Connell has jobs it has problems familiar to most towns that have ready access by highway to much larger communities – in this case Pasco and the Tri-Cities. There are many empty storefronts or businesses such as the ubiquitous antique stores that are only open occasionally. Some of the fine old structures are in need of repair and others are being brought back to life by civic-minded folk that are rejuvenating classic building exteriors and converting their interiors to residences and the like.
I met a man who was smoking outside of the Laundromat (with pool tables). He works at the ‘correctional facility’ but lives in the Tri-Cities. He lamented that Connell just didn’t want to grow and that it was missing a lot. I asked what they needed. His response, “Fast food and big box stores. They like it this way.” (Ah, what makes America great!)