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At Coco, customers leave words of wisdom for each other

Customers never know quite what they'll find inside an old mahogany-stained oak table at Coco restaurant on Main Street.

A philosophical quote from "The Alchemist" about love and striving to be better.

Birthday wishes from a mother to her daughter.

A universal message to all scrawled on paper – "Life is beautiful. Enjoy it."

What started as a lark by restaurant owner Maura Crawford has turned into a tradition of customers leaving notes for each other inside the 12 drawers of a large family table at the restaurant at 888 Main St. near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.

Letters, handwritten notes of advice and bits of ephemera are left by customers for future patrons. Some have words of wisdom. Others are left for a laugh.

"Ride your bike to work at least one day a week all year long!" a handwritten note exclaims. Another: "We are moving from West Side to Larkinville. Are we crazy?"

The 14-seat table and its secret letters have become a favorite among customers since the restaurant opened nearly five years ago.

"We call it the community table," said Coco owner Maura Crawford.

Crawford loved that old library table when it was part of her brother and sister-in-law's former farmhouse in the Boston Hills. Back then, it was a gathering place for family and its drawers were stuffed full of Easter grass and chocolate eggs. When they moved out of the area and had no room to take the table with them, Crawford made sure she got it. Those Easter treats hidden in the drawers long ago never left her memory.

Handmade valentines in one table drawer.

As she opened Coco, Crawford made sure the table was the first piece of furniture she brought in. She began filling its drawers, starting a tradition laced with humor, inspiration, love notes and silly odds and ends. Her first stop was the dollar store. "I put condoms in one. There was a drug-testing kit and peanut M&Ms," she recalled, with a laugh. "I wanted to freak people out."

It didn't take customers long to notice – and to begin leaving secret messages of their own.

"This table would be perfect for a Festivus celebration!" wrote one customer, referencing the made-up holiday celebration popularized by the sitcom "Seinfeld." "In fact, I may air some grievances right now!"

Items from a drawer at Coco, a Main Street bistro.

The character of the drawers reflects Crawford's sense of humor. Their contents have become a topic of conversation among some customers who pull them open to peek inside. Customers have more or less taken over the job of stocking the drawers with this and that.

On a recent weekday, drawers were filled with handmade purple and pink valentines to Brendan, Danny and Lexy. Another listed the key points for a toast to a young couple: "Happiness, love, family and friends old and new."

"It's something different," bartender Kayla Ortiz said. "It makes it more homey, like a miscellaneous drawer in a home."

Once in a while, Crawford said she'll still "load" the table drawers with goodies. But for the most part, it's been taken over by customers.

"It brings people together," Crawford said, "but also represents our whimsy and wanting people to have fun dinners here."

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