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Hangin' at The Dock

September 17, 2006|by KATE S. ALEXANDER

SHIPPENSBURG, PA. - If you want to understand The Dock, here's something you should know: At The Dock, you are a guest of co-founders Joel Crowley and Timmy Wagner.

Their purpose is to offer you coffee, jazz and conversation as you "relax while being served."

The coffee is free, the jazz is free and the conversation is free.

The Dock, a not-for-profit coffeehouse on King Street in Shippensburg, is open every Thursday from 10 p.m. It was started by Crowley and Wagner back in 2003 to be a nautical-themed venue with room names such as the pier, the leaky dinghy and the galley.

The idea began to form when "we were sitting around ... talking about the lack of places in town where you could get coffee and conversation on a Thursday night," Crowley said.

Not content with the narrow selection of bars and fraternity houses, Crowley and Wagner decided they had the answer to the problem.

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"So we decided to create that place," Wagner said.

"Yeah," Crowley said. "We said, 'Why not start our own place?'"

Crowley declined to say how much The Dock costs its crew, saying only, "We are well blessed, and we share those blessings."

"Dock support," as Crowley called the financing of the venue, is a touchy subject in "the galley" - kitchen to the layman. The most Wagner, Crowley or roommate Seth Scott will admit is that they all contribute to the operating costs of The Dock.

"We also take donations," Wagner said.

"But not on your first time," Crowley said. "We want you to come back, and if you like it enough to come back, you can give that second night."

The special

Coffee is the foundation of The Dock. Even those who have never tasted coffee or never liked coffee are likely to drink it at The Dock. There is, after all, the Wagner Special.

A delicate combination of coffee, milk, sugar, cinnamon, froth and T.L.C., the Wagner Special has converted many.

Lindsey Barrick of Newville, Pa., had managed to avoid coffee at The Dock for almost two years.

"I always had their smoothies," Barrick said. "But Timmy insisted I have coffee one night, so he made me a Wagner Special."

Barrick admitted that she was terrified she wouldn't like Wagner's coffee, but was pleasantly surprised.

"Timmy's coffee is the only coffee I can drink," Barrick said. "He babies it down for me."

Many at The Dock answer "The Wagner Special" when asked their favorite drink. Some admit that's the case because Wagner makes it just for them.

Wagner said he gladly crafts his coffee to the palate of his guests, adding that he wants them to be happy.

With the Wagner Special at the top, the menu at The Dock features eight nautically inspired drinks, including coffee, tea, cider and fruit smoothies.

Jazz and conversation

"What goes better with coffee than jazz and conversation?" Crowley asked.

Entertainment is a fundamental part of The Dock. In its early days, Scott said, Wagner and Crowley provided the entertainment between making drinks.

"They would sing and play, then make coffee," Scott said.

Today, The Dock is a favorite venue of local artists and musicians just wanting to jam.

Tim Bakner of Everett, Pa., a student at Shippensburg University, learned of The Dock through a friend, and now is a staple on stage, or "the main deck."

"The Dock has shaped what I am doing musically," Bakner said. "I was emo, but now I play more upbeat, jazzy stuff, too."

Jazz is an essential element in the experience at The Dock, but according to Scott, conversation is more important.

"This place sees no color or background, just who you are," he said. "So when the music stops, people get real."

Brad Rasmussen, a neighbor of The Dock, describes the atmosphere as love.

"There is such an openness for exchange, a hospitality here," Rasmussen said. "That's love."

Crowley said The Dock is about the people who come, and if people want to stay and talk all night, The Dock is open.

"They can even crash on one of the couches," Crowley said.

Scott characterized The Dock this way: "The theme and aroma of The Dock takes over the entire week ... You can't get away from it, not that you would want to."

The future

The Dock is open every Thursday night, but Crowley and Wagner dream of a Dock that is open every night.

"I want to take this full time," Crowley said. "But we will have to wait and see."

Until then, Crowley and Wagner want their guests to know they are welcome.

"They're welcome," Crowley said. "Both meanings apply."

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