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Empire in Kent, Ohio

Kent, Ohio has undergone a transformation. Long known as the midwest school which Vietnam protests resulted in four deaths, Kent had a very hippie feel. Even in the mid-nineties, the surrounding areas of the campus were more small town than successful midwest college. So then Kent got smart, revitalized and all the little cool stores, except for a few, were gone, replaced with super trendy, funky places.

But this crazy new one emerged which is my new favorite place in Kent. Empire. It sells gourmet chocolates (like absinthe! O.k. any place that references Oscar Wilde I like) and some of the chocolates have artwork airbrushed on them. It also sells jewelry of the saints and other religions. It has a huge henna for temporary tattoo'ing and hair. I buy staff gifts from Empire - healing crystals, ethically-harvested jewelry from Pacific Rim rhinos. All very cool and people always respond positively "this is so amazing!" because Empire gives a little card with most gifts explaining the meaning. And then add a friendly, happy staff.

But the kicker is, on certain days, if you purchase $10, you get a free tarot card from Samantha. Something I didn't do for many times I've been in there. But one day, before going to the damn therapist I'm seeing, I got a reading. And this woman was dead on with what the therapist told me and she didn't ask me one question.

She's funny, she's endearing and she just throws it out there. She is a total kick. So now I go there once a week after the therapist. My mother finds this funny - "you see a therapist and then get your Tarot Cards read? Kateā€¦." But Samantha is the coolest chick ever. And the store is the coolest store ever. Reminds me of why I loved college so much. And Samantha? Talk about one very funny, intuitive lady. Go to Empire just to talk to her because she's just amazing.