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Coffee buzz

Patrons of specialty java shops enjoy arts, conversation, or maybe just a chance to relax

Patrons of specialty java shops enjoy arts, conversation, or maybe just a chance to relax

February 21, 2005|by Chris Copley

chrisc@herald-mail.com

For lovers of strong coffee, it's happy time in Hagerstown. Since mid-2004, at least four specialty coffee shops have opened in town.

These shops specialize in coffee and its cousins cappuccino, espresso, frapp, and so on. Most serve pastries, cookies or sandwiches, but a specialty coffee shop's main offering is java - strong, fresh-ground and fresh-brewed.

Among the newcomers to Hagerstown's coffee scene are Higher Ground Coffee on Dual Highway near Eastern Boulevard, which opened in June; JaVa Bean Coffee Bar, which opened in September in the Centre at Antietam, on Eastern Boulevard near the Dual Highway; Port City Java, which opened in October in Long Meadow Shopping Center; and Square Cup, which opened in October at the intersection of Washington and Potomac streets in downtown Hagerstown.

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Java and jazz

A specialty coffee shop is more than a place to get a caffeine fix; it's a meeting place, a haven, a venue for art and music and more. Fortunately for fans, the Tri-State area is blessed with many such havens, from Chambersburg, Pa., to Berkeley Springs, W.Va., to Brunswick, Md.

"It starts with the idea of a coffee shop as a third place, not home or work - a place to get together with people and talk politics or art or whatever," said Port City Java manager Chris Baker. "And there's a lot of things we can do to support the arts in Hagerstown."

One thing Baker has done is set up a weekly open-mic night on Thursdays. The event has proven popular.

"The first week, we had one performer. The next week, we had 20 or more and the line was out the door," he said. "And it was a diverse crowd - families with young kids, retirees, teens."

Gail Stottlemyer, who co-owns Higher Ground with husband Steve, said the arts are not central to her business. But she does host live music about twice a month.

"We usually get local people," she said. "We have three guys 17 years old who play guitar."

Lorri Kaye, owner of On What Grounds in Chambersburg, Pa., occasionally opens her coffee shop to local musicians.

"We have music once or twice a month. We're a small place, so it has to be acoustic," said Kaye, who opened On What Grounds five years ago. "There's jazz, classic rock, and we have a guy from Norway who sings his own music, some in English and some in Norwegian."

Visual stimulation

Patrons of specialty coffee shops seem to appreciate artwork on the walls. Several such Tri-State shops - among them On What Grounds, Port City Java, the Lost Dog in Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Hard Bean Caf in Gettysburg, Pa. - have original art.

Chase Zarefoss, who serves coffee at the Lost Dog, said owners Garth and Lissa Janssen like to present art that pushes the envelope.

"We're not artsy. We're just not as conservative as other places," Zarefoss said. "We're very picky. We put up art by people we know, who have something to say."

Jodie Carbaugh and husband Steve are co-owners of Cup O' Joe on Baltimore Street, the main drag through Greencastle, Pa. Jodie Carbaugh has used her coffee shop's visibility to help promote a variety of arts-oriented events in Greencastle - ballet, poetry, music and visual art.

"Anything artsy, we're willing to promote," Carbaugh said. "We're part of the heart of Greencastle. And we can add to the culture of the city."

Being community-minded is part of Port City Java's corporate philosophy, according to Baker. He finds a natural fit between coffee and the arts.

"This is my opinion, but the kind of people who come and talk and socialize in a coffee shop are more artistic," Baker said.

The arts culture also is important to Cliff Lane, owner of Square Cup in downtown Hagerstown. He has scheduled a variety of arts-related events in his shop. Lane hangs original art and photographs on the walls and hosts live music, movies screenings and literature events.

"We're in the (downtown) arts district," Lane said. "We're part of that culture. We want to get more people downtown. This is a beautiful little city. It's changing and we want to be part of the reason it changes."

Lane also likes to get to know customers.

"We try to encourage conversation," he said. "We have games upstairs - backgammon, chess, dominoes, a cribbage set. We get people involved in conversation."

Treat 'em like family

Stottlemyer said she cultivates a welcoming atmosphere for customers at Higher Ground. Part of that is her Christian faith, part is just the way Stottlemyer conducts business.

"Customers like the familiarity, the relationship," she said. "Just because they come in and I say 'Hey, how ya doin'?' If you're not in for a couple days, it's nice to know people miss you."

Sitting at the counter along the front window, Casey Webb, a student at Boonsboro High School and Hagerstown Community College, said, "They know just about everyone who walks in here. They treat everyone like family, not just like customers."

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