My first experience with Eclipse was an ill-fated date my sophomore year of college. I got a milkshake and a roast beef sandwich, and just like that, I was hooked. Not to the guy, but to the restaurant.
I had several more romantic dates at Eclipse (Tony and I had our second date there), but none of them compare to the magic that was going to Eclipse with your group of friends to drink milkshakes (or something stronger), pet the cats, and just hang out. The food was great, the atmosphere was cozy, and life was just better at Eclipse.
I’ve wandered the shelves at Eclipse many times over, hoping to find another forgotten gem. I found a Christopher Robin memoir there for $1.00. I’ve found a few long-forgotten classics. I’ve found things that should probably have never seen the light of day. But it’s always fun to look. The books were reasonably priced, and you could buy them with your flex points. (Flex points are essentially cash loaded onto your student ID that you can use at various locations around Montevallo, if you don’t want to use one of your swipes at the cafeteria.)
Eclipse was the meeting place for so many people. I had several classes meet at Eclipse (most recently the final James Joyce class to celebrate finishing Ulysses), and went to several author talks there. Tony and I even went to a free wine tasting on Valentine’s Day! Eclipse was hugely instrumental in the success of several local indie bands, as they held band nights most Thursday nights. They held poetry slams, open mic nights, and trivia nights. If there was something going on in Montevallo, there was a 90% chance it was going on at Eclipse.
As I move into my final year at Montevallo, Eclipse is closing its doors for the last time. There will be no more late-night runs to the most popular spot in Montevallo. There will be no more cheesecake milkshakes. And most upsetting of all, there will be no more encounters with the porch cats. (Most likely, the Pattons are going to try and find adoptive homes for their beloved porch cats, but we all know that cats don’t like being told what to do.)
Life at Montevallo is going to be different without Eclipse there to celebrate events at. There have been no plans shared about what’s going to happen to Eclipse after it locks the doors for the last time on July 27. Maybe it’s being sold to someone who has better restaurant know-how, and can keep it going (at least in spirit; it will never be “The” Eclipse, if you know what I mean). Maybe it’ll be changed into solely a bookstore. Maybe a teeny-tiny bed & breakfast. All I know is that if the building comes down, there will most likely be riots.
For a town as small as Montevallo, the death of one of its longest-lasting, non-corporate-chain-owned restaurants is unsettling. Eclipse was the place to go for everything: books, beer, and food. It was better than the Main Street Tavern across the street. There’s just something friendly about sitting on the overstuffed red couch in the main room, petting one of the cats that just happened to slip inside. (Although since Willy’s death, that doesn’t really happen. He was the only one who wanted to be inside.)
Montevallo nights are already dark, as we’re pretty far away from the big city. But the nights are going to be much darker without the warm porch of Eclipse to welcome us in from the world.
Thank you, Eclipse, for all you’ve done not only for me, but for the city of Montevallo. You are going to be sorely missed.