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No-pressure hangout

July 05, 2005|by Lydia Hadfield

Undiscovered places: An occasional series on unique places to go and things to do for teens in the Tri-State area.

BRUNSWICK, Md. - Beans in the Belfry is a one-of-a-kind coffee shop. Situated among antique stores and bait shops on Brunswick's West Potomac Street, the former church provides a laid-back atmosphere that everyone can enjoy.

Inside, the eclectic mishmash of couches, chairs, assorted lamps and tables ais partitioned by hinged doors to give the coffee shop a relaxed, intimate feel.

"You don't have to buy anything to come in," says owner Melanie DiPasquali. "Just come in to hang out."

DiPasquali opened Beans in the Belfry in October, hoping to provide a safe, comfortable place for the community to socialize. Remembering that as a teenager, she and her friends often were kicked out of stores if they didn't buy anything, she wanted to create a spot where kids could feel welcome without the pressure to purchase.

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At Beans in the Belfry, people are free to play chess and board games, or read books and newspapers available to visitors. Some customers simply sit, talk and look around at the scattered bric-a-brac, vintage photos and other decorations.

Julianna Lufkin, 14, and her mother, Annie Marshall, of Shepherdstown, W.Va., said they visit Beans in the Belfry to listen to the music or have breakfast with friends.

Beans in the Belfry offers coffees, teas, soups, sandwiches and desserts. Coffee and tea prices range from $1.50 to $4.50. Soups and sandwiches cost $5 to $6. Desserts cost 60 cents to $3.

Also, computers with Internet access are available in the shop's balcony for a fee.

DiPasquali wants to build her customer base by catering to customers' wants and needs.

"It's an open slate," she said. "If anyone wants to do something, I'm totally here for that purpose."

In the past, several teenagers have seized the opportunity. During the school year, a creative writing club met at the shop. This past spring some students put together a band concert at Beans in the Belfry for a graduation project. Currently, the coffee shop hosts an open-mic night from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays. DiPasquali welcomes suggestions for new activities and events.

DiPasquali said said her plans call for constructing a deck and adding a billiard room in the basement.

But the palce is attracting loyal customers as is.

"I love the atmosphere," said Valerie Aaron, 41, a frequent customer. "It feels like a family here."

Dave Kaehler, a regular from Lovettsville, Va., appreciates that Beans in the Belfry is "certainly not a Starbucks."

Beans in the Belfry is at 122 W. Potomac St. in Brunswick. The caf is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, including a menu and event calendar, check out www.beansinthebelfry.com or call 1-301-834-7178.

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