Patricia Holm

The Null Set Remembered, a memoir of a coffee house 1964-1967

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This is a self-published memoir of Olympia, Washington's first coffee house, The Null Set, which operated from 1964 and 1967. It was the a venue for bluegrass, folk singers, blues guitarists, poetry, puppetry and left wing politics. They also brought the San Francisco Mime Troupe St Martin's College Olympia in 1966, which was shut down by local reactionary priests. This is a wonderful story of early do-it-yourself culture building.


'It was 1964 when Patricia, her then-husband Pete Holm, and their friends Bob and Bonnie Gillis came together to bring Olympia its very first coffee house. It was called the Null Set, named after the mathematical term meaning “the set that does not contain anything.” It was meant to stand for unrealized potential and new possibilities.

'The Null Set was a buzzing little hub where quality folk music was accompanied by tasteful specialty coffees and old-fashioned sodas. It was only open in the evenings with slightly later hours on the weekend. It became a central location for the community to gather in a casual, spontaneous setting.

'Upon moving to Olympia, Patricia thought the city seemed “really backward.” She was eager to bring more life to the area, and she thought a coffee house would do just the trick.

'“Olympia was hungry for art, music, and an informal place to talk about all the disruptions happening in the larger society,” Patricia said. “There were lots of coffee houses in the sixties in Seattle. They were really kind of specialty European-style shops that served little cakes and special coffees. I just thought that was so cool.”

'But, the Thurston County community didn’t immediately take to the Null Set. Many people who were adventurous enough to stop in said they weren’t quite sure how to react to such a place.Patricia Holm wrote a book about her experiences operating the Null Set coffee shop. It can be checked out at the Olympia Timberland Library.

'“The coffee house didn’t fit into the rest of Olympia at all. It was feared,” Patricia noted. “There was no place at the time for kids to go and hear music like adults would, except at our cafe. And, it was different than anybody had ever tasted. This was totally different. People wanted Twinkies and Orange Crush. We were providing cheesecake and little loaves of bread with fontina cheese.”'

-Thurston Talk