Originally published on the Money & More cover of the York Daily Record/Sunday News on Sunday, January 30, 2012.
***For more on ThinkDrink, check out this Storify of a November event, which paired cupcakes and beer together for a unique tasting.
By LAUREN BOYER
Daily Record/Sunday News
A pint of foam-capped fermented beverage isn’t always the hallmark of high-level cognitive performance.
It all depends on who you are.
For one pack of York County philosophers, the brewskie flows freely as they tackle the issues of what’s what and who’s who in the place they call, affectionately, #iloveyorkcity.
“It’s just a random thing,” said Mandy Arnold, president and founder of Gavin Advertising in York. “I wanted to get people connected downtown — to get people engaged and exposed to what’s going on. Two years later, here we are, doing it every month.”
ThinkDrink — named appropriately — is the brainchild of 36-year-old Arnold, who sits on the board at Downtown Inc.
In March 2010, the then-marketer for a Marvin Windows and Doors distributor spotted a magazine article about a group of people coming together in Youngstown, Ohio, to think, drink and collaborate.
“I thought, ‘How awesome would that be if we did something like that here?'” she said. “I posted it to Twitter and Facebook. The next Monday, we had 40 people show up.”
It began with weekly discussions, each time at a different downtown watering hole where participants purchased their own drinks and publicized the discussion online with the Twitter hashtag #thinkdrink.
A few months later, Meagan Feeser, a West York Area High School grad, married her husband, Bill, and moved from New York City back to York County.
At the time, she commuted to a job at a Maryland communications firm.
But — on this side of the Mason-Dixon, at least — people began to know her as @nomiddlenamemeg on Twitter, as she chimed in on local conversation. (Yes, she really has no middle name.)
“I came across this #iloveyorkcity hashtag,” said Feeser, 30, of York Township. “I sort of trolled the hashtag a while and got to know some of the people.”
Then, in fall 2010, she attended her first ThinkDrink. Arnold later recruited her as a co-organizer — a fully volunteer gig.
She didn’t mind.
“If this is where I’m going to spend the rest of my life,” said Feeser, who joined Arnold’s firm in January as director of PR and communications, “I’d like it to be an awesome place to live.”
Turns out, she isn’t the only one.
The average crowd count at a ThinkDrink event, held the fourth Monday of the month, ranges from 15 to 60 people, ages 21 to senior citizen.
And they’re full of new ideas.
Take, for example, Erin Herpert and Alex Bastian. The couple attended their first ThinkDrink on Monday, which featured, among other things, a tour of Nuts About Granola from founder Sarah Lanphier.
The two Kennard-Dale High School art teachers just purchased a former fire station on South George Street in York with plans to renovate the garage area — once filled with fire trucks — into a gallery, highlighting local artists and pieces from creative friends living in Pittsburgh, Maryland and beyond.
“We hope it will be a central area that will bring the city together,” Herpert said.
The couple isn’t on Twitter, but who knows? They might be someday.
“We only promote ThinkDrink events over social media,” said Arnold. “We know people who were not on Facebook or Twitter and they are now becoming more familiar with these platforms because they know it’s the only place we’re going to distribute it.”
In the meantime — if you’re looking for it — there’s plenty of York banter on the interwebs.
And don’t be afraid. Making friends in cyberspace doesn’t have the stranger danger stigma it once did.
“Twitter is kind of what glues these people together when things like (ThinkDrink) aren’t happening,” said Brian Shoop, who attended his first ThinkDrink this fall after moving to York. “I wanted a closer glimpse at the professional side of things.”
Others prefer the casual style, not typical of groups with officers, dues and attendance obligations.
“There’s some organization, but it’s kind of spontaneous and organic,” said Jack Brown, ThinkDrinker and city superintendent of sewer maintenance. “They’re reacting to what’s going on in the community, and that drives the events.”
Those events often include exclusive, first dibs access to what’s new in the city.
November’s meet-up featured pairings of craft beer donated by the Beer Ace with cupcakes to promote Just Cupcakes’ new retail shop on West Philadelphia Street.
In October, attorney Scott Eden bounced ideas off ThinkDrinkers for a tap room he’s opening on the first floor of the historic National House at 11 N. Beaver St.
A month earlier, the group met a representative from the Center for Community Engagement at the Waterway Bar and Grill to learn about the history and future of the Codorus Creek waterfront. From there, they took canoe rides.
Sound fun? It won’t cost you anything, compliments of local sponsors.
That’s the beauty.
Anyone can come — or not come.
And they don’t have “meetings.”
Just liquid libations and good conversation.
“Some people have the expectation that maybe we should expand and become an organization,” Arnold said. “Our goal is to really connect and engage people downtown … That’s what really has made us very agile. People are attracted to that.”