The Secret Lives of Carrie Rollwagen

I try not to be too autobiographical on this blog. I use plenty of personal details, but they’re generally used to illustrate a bigger idea — my life as metaphor, I guess. Usually, this strategy helps me make a point and keeps me from rambling, but sometimes it just gets confusing. I know this because I’ve been getting lots of questions from you guys, both online and in person. As one of my Church Street customers said when she saw me assisting a photographer friend recently, “How many secret lives do you have?!”


My life and schedule is a bit confusing, even to me. But I think it’s time to sketch out an outline of what’s going on with me. It’s always nice to write with a little mystery, but too much mystery just frustrates readers, and that’s certainly not what I’m setting out to do.


I’m now a silent partner at Church Street Coffee & Books. For the first three years or so, Cal and I ran the store as 50-50 managing partners, but it was always the plan for me to back off a bit once the store got on its feet. Long-term, I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and we went into the business of opening a store with the understanding that I’d transition to silent partnership when the shop was financially stable. I know it seems weird that I’m at other coffee shops around town more than I’m at my own, and there are a lot of reasons for that, but one of them is that I don’t want to seem like I’m using the Localist platform just as PR for my own store.


I got back from The Localist book tour a couple of months ago, and frankly, I didn’t know what to do with myself when I got back. For over three years, I defined myself almost completely by working incredibly hard to start Church Street. Then I worked incredibly hard to launch The Localist book and to go on tour. When I finally got home, I felt pretty lost (Oh, the irony!). I’d always found a way to smash a little bit of copywriting into my schedule (I was a copywriter before starting Church Street), but I didn’t really want to go back to the hectic life of a full-time freelance copywriter, either.


I pursued a lot of different options, but in the end the best thing for me sort of fell in my lap. (That seems to be the frustrating way of networking — you have to work super hard to fight for opportunities that never pan out, but your struggling somehow leads you to almost stumble over the right choice. Good one, universe.) One of my long-term freelance clients, Infomedia, offered me a part-time consulting and copywriting position. This is perfect for me because it gives me much-needed time off to manage the small business of The Localist book and explore new projects that interest me (like assisting photographer friends from time to time), but it also gives me stability, a little financial boost, and the opportunity to work with people I respect and like in an office setting.


Infomedia is a locally owned business that builds websites for other businesses. Some of their clients are huge, multi-national companies, but most of them are other small businesses. I write copy for their websites, which means I get to learn about small businesses, meet the entrepreneurs who run them and interview them about pretty much whatever I want. As anyone who’s read my blog or my book can guess, I’m pretty into that. I enjoy the work, and I enjoy being in a collaborative work environment, too.


So that’s pretty much what’s going on with me — I’m a copywriter, but I’m also a kind of a roaming Localist and sometimes freelancer, and I’ve been doing quite a few speaking events as well. It’s still confusing, I know, and it still makes me feel a little like Carmen Sandiego. But hopefully this will help make those “What in the world is she doing” questions make just a little bit more sense.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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