How Dropping into an Open Mic Changed My Life

My Books and Brews Story

My family moved to Indianapolis in October of 2016. We left, what I had imagined would be, our forever home in Illinois after only living there for two years. It was a beautiful little Mayberry… wholesome, progressive, and safe. There was a cool little bar where I played music every Thursday night. We had an army of friends. We lived in our dream home, complete with tree swings for the kids. My best pal lived right around the corner, and our kids were best pals.

When we came to Indianapolis, I couldn’t even utter the name of our beloved Princeton without choking on the word and tearing up. We had left the place I loved most in the world and dropped ourselves into a city that was so expansive, I thought I’d never have a community again. I didn’t have a “place” anymore. Any friends I had lived at least 30 minutes away. My children were in school. My husband was at work. And I was alone. I played some open stages around the city from time to time and enjoyed that. But I still grieved the loss of community.

One evening, in February, I confided in my husband. “I don’t think I can be happy here. Can you get your job back in Illinois? Can we move back?” Of course that wasn’t an option. We were where we needed to be and we both knew it. I was just having a monumentally difficult time accepting it. Evan, always (sometimes infuriatingly) knowing exactly what to say, encouraged me to find a new open mic to try that evening. “I’ll stay with the kids,” he said. “I think a change of scenery would do you good.” So I made my way to “The Mothership.” I fully intended to slide into the back, unnoticed, wait for my turn to play, and bounce after my set. But something else happened instead.

When I walked through the door, I was greeted like an old friend. The open mic host (Tommy, in my featured image, with a most excellent moustache) made a beeline for me, showed me where to sign up, and led me to a table of total strangers who welcomed me with open arms. It was weird. But it was great. We talked and got to know one another. They shared their pie. I drank some of the best damn beer I’d ever tasted. And for the first time since our move, I finally began to feel like I might have a place. For the first time since our move, I didn’t feel lonely.

I noticed my cell phone battery was close to dead, so I excused myself to plug it into my van charger. I joked, on the way out, with a guy sitting in the front room, “If someone steals my van because it’s unlocked and running, I’m holding you liable.” He laughed, “I’ll keep a close watch.”  When I went back to check the battery, he joked, “Sorry. I looked away for a minute and someone took it.” Then WE chatted like old friends. His name was Jason. I found out, later, he was the owner. Everyone I encountered was effortlessly kind and real and there was something so very special about that place.

When I went home that night, Evan asked me how things went. I smiled, teared up, and said, “I think I found my place.” Week after week, I went back. Evan came along when he could. He felt it too. “Why is this place so cool?” He asked. Neither one of us could really put our finger on it. There was no certain “type” of person there. We were all misfits in our own way, I suppose. But in being “misfits” we found a community. We found a place where we belong.

We got to know Jason (the main cheese) and the rest of the staff. Jason and I sat across from each other and cried together when I told him how much Books and Brews had meant to me. Evan asked him if he would ever consider franchising. We saw something so incredibly special. More than a taproom…more than a restaurant. Books and Brews is home. Our stores are an opportunity to extend friendship and belonging to someone else who might be lonely, longing for a place. We get to be that place. And that makes me so happy.

Melissa Sandullo, (Broad Ripple and South Indy)

1 thought on “How Dropping into an Open Mic Changed My Life”

  1. Oh, you nutter! You just made me tear up at work, darn it! This is Charlie, BTW. I’m glad not only that you are part of our circle o’ friends, but that through your investments, you’ve made available to a wider audience that which is special to you (and all of us). Smooches!

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