First Saturdays

July 18, 2017

Written by Miles Ramsay | Photos by Alysa Ramsay


DEFINITION: Something made by human hands that has some archaeological or historical significance

Like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes, St. Joseph’s historic downtown is on the rise. The first Saturday of each month is a celebration of the district’s reemergence, complete with themes and samples from the area’s businesses.

On a warm Saturday afternoon, a stout, shaggy haired figure sits along the sidewalk at the corner of Eighth and Felix in downtown St. Joseph, carefully sketching an intricate design on a clean, white sheet of paper.

Tattoo Artist Latham Novak occasionally breaks focus to expound upon the lively conversation between half a dozen friends forming a loose semi circle outside his business, Stay True Tattoo.

The topic? “Weirdest tattoo you’ve ever seen.” Yeah…you can imagine the reactions.

It’s another First Saturday in the downtown district. An open invitation to celebrate the passion and precision that downtown’s unique small businesses offer – colorful macarons from Brioche French Bakery and Café, masterpiece Italian espressos from Paradox Coffee & Theatre, craft brews from The Tiger’s Den Bookstore and Bar, handmade scarves from Mod Podge Boutique, home décor from Nesting Goods, vintage clothing and jewelry from The Lucky Tiger, or fresh ink from Stay True Tattoo.

Latham and fellow tattoo artist, John Pansza have nothing but positive praise for First Saturdays.

“First Saturdays are starting to get pretty cool.” “It’s revamping St. Joe’s downtown.”

Whether Latham realizes it or not, the paper he is scrupulously attending to encompasses all that downtown St. Joseph has become – a blank canvas of landmark buildings and historic streets for young artists and entrepreneurs to create with, build upon, and breathe new life into.

President of First Saturdays Downtown Inc, Brian Myers, says the monthly event is a chance to rediscover downtown and find a hidden gem.

“I hear it all the time now, ‘Wow! I didn’t know all this was down here.’ If you can get them downtown on a First Saturday, they will come back…Our main goal is to intertwine art and live music with commerce.”

Café Pony Espresso Barista, Arlo Elliott echoes those sentiments and facetiously refers to his profession as…

“…the artistry of coffee mixed with crass capitalism.”

First Saturdays incorporate fun themes and events like wine walks, sidewalk sales, cultural heritage festivals, Holidays at the Square, and whatever else the First Saturdays Downtown Inc. board conjures up. Watch out in March for a leprechaun that’ll throw Lucky Charms cereal at you. On the surface, it appears to be all fun and merriment, but go a level deeper and you’ll uncover a sense of community, togetherness, and new possibilities that seem to waft through the air and intoxicate patrons.

For those that have grown up in this community and have only thought of downtown as a deteriorating ghost town with fading memories of yesteryear, First Saturdays are kind of surreal. To see these buildings filled with fresh perspectives and ideas, not to mention ACTUAL people is like watching the proverbial phoenix rise from the ashes.

Let the renaissance of downtown and it’s corresponding First Saturdays continue forevermore! Huzzah!



Filled with or characterized by a lively energy and excitement.


Consonant with the character of and in accordance with the nature of the area.


Admirably purposeful, determined, and unwavering.


Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or inspiration.


To keep hold or be firmly fixed; can be relied on for support, stability, or security; mainstay.