Denim Coffee opening shop at Dickinson College

Chambersburg-based Denim Coffee will open its fourth coffee shop – and first on a college campus – Oct. 28.

The specialty coffee roaster’s newest location is inside the Quarry space at Dickinson College. Denim Coffee’s other shops are in downtown Chambersburg, downtown Harrisburg and downtown Carlisle.

Centrally located on the Dickinson campus and remodeled by Denim Coffee, the space had been a cafe before shutting down during the pandemic. The menu will feature coffee, espresso, smoothies, locally brewed UnDone kombucha, fresh baked goods and breakfast sandwiches.

“Creating a high-end coffee experience on a college campus has been a dream of mine ever since working the coffee bar at my alma mater, Shippensburg University,” Matt Ramsay, owner and founder of Denim Coffee, said in a release.

“College students deserve a moment of beauty in their busy lives. The challenge for us at the Dickinson location is managing between-class rushes without compromising quality. The bar was designed to prioritize quality first, but speed of service has been kept a very close second priority. We’re going to find out how well we did very soon.”

Dickinson President John E. Jones III added: “We are absolutely thrilled to welcome Denim Coffee to campus at the Quarry. Students, faculty and staff have been eagerly anticipating the opening of this unique coffee shop, and we are looking forward to Denim becoming a part of campus life.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

New tourism trail targets coffee drinkers

Cafe One Eight at 18 W Orange St, Lancaster, is one of 21 coffee shops on the Discover Lancaster Coffee Trail. PHOTO/CAFE ONE EIGHT

Discover Lancaster is rolling out a new initiative that puts coffee drinkers on the road to Lancaster County coffee shops.

Some 20 unique coffee shops, in fact, are spread across Lancaster County and reach from Lancaster City to Ephrata.

“The rollout comes at a time when tourism has traditionally seen an uptick in out-of-town visitors arriving for the popular fall harvest season,” said Ed Harris, President & CEO of Discover Lancaster. “This is one more fun activity to add to a jam-packed itinerary to enhance the visitor experience. There’s plenty of options to find a great coffee and pumpkin-spiced latte.”

Developed in partnership with Bandwango, the Discover Lancaster Coffee Trail is the first in a series of themed trails to be rolled out in future seasons to enhance the visitor experience. Harris said the mobile passport offers a curated collection of coffee shops in Lancaster, as well as exclusive deals and discounts to favorite local coffee spots.

“From Lancaster City, to Intercourse, to Ephrata, and everywhere in between,” said Harris, “there’s a wide range of unique coffee shop experiences that can be found in our towns across Lancaster County.”

The list of participating shops on the Coffee Trail include:

Aura Espresso Room; Bird-in-hand Bakery & Cafe; Butter & Bean; Cafe 301; Cafe Arabella; Cafe One Eight; Coffee Co – Lancaster; Copper Cup; Courtyard Cafe on Main; Hudson Botanical; Javteas Gourmet Coffee Cafe; La Mattina Caffe; Mill 72 Bake Shop & Cafe; Passenger Coffee & Tea; Prince Street Cafe; Rachel’s Cafe & Creperie; September Farm Cheese; Speckled Hen Coffee; Square One Coffee Roasters; The Houston Co. Cafe; and The Roasted Rooster

“Our new mobile-based coffee trail highlights the many small businesses who have poured everything they have into opening the coffee shop of their dreams,” Harris said.

Visitors to the participating coffee shops can check-in digitally at each stop to count towards their prize. After 5 stops visitors earn a Discover Lancaster Sticker & Coaster. After 10 stops, a Discover Lancaster Coffee Mug. A Discover Lancaster Canvas Bag is earned after 15 stops. Prizes can be redeemed at Discover Lancaster visitors center.

“This is an invitation to celebrate Lancaster and bring more business to our small businesses,” said Harris. “Our mission is to educate people about what’s in our back yard. We have expectations for an ice cream trail, a brewery trail. We’re excited to roll this out and test it.”

Expanded McCormick Riverfront Library to feature book cafe

Stefan Hawkins, owner of Good Brotha’s Book Café. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Good Brotha’s Book Café will open this fall as part of the McCormick Riverfront Library expansion, the first coffee shop in Dauphin County Library System’s eight locations.

Owner Stefan Hawkins said his current shop in midtown Harrisburg would close Sept. 10 because the building’s owner is selling the property.

“We’re looking at opening in McCormick on Oct. 17, and I’m excited to bring Good Brotha’s to everyone visiting the library,’’ Hawkins said in a release. “I opened my cafe with a mission of expanding access to titles in Black and African American literature, so this partnership with the library is perfect.’’

Library System Executive Director Karen Cullings said the arrangement is an example of how the library is partnering with businesses and organizations.

Cullings also announced Friday the chance for donors to the $3.5 million expansion project to have their gift showcased in a custom panel as part of an appreciation wall in McCormick’s new welcome center.

“We want to recognize everyone who helped make this project possible, and the donor recognition wall in the new T. Morris Chester Welcome Center is a beautiful way to commemorate their generosity for generations to come,’’ Cullings said.

She added that demand for the library’s resources has never been greater, with McCormick’s location in downtown Harrisburg making it easily accessible.

The expanded McCormick Riverfront Library will feature a 3,400-plus-square-foot family area that incorporates science, technology, reading, engineering, arts and math learning support, 950 square feet of public meeting space, added public computer resources and more.

State-of-the-art “zSpace” computers will allow learners to use “augmented reality” to explore nature, conduct science experiments, build digital models and virtually travel to the stars.

And the new M&T Bank Business Center will provide entrepreneurs, small business owners and job seekers access to computers and printers, mailing supplies, notary services and meeting space.

Also, the T. Morris Chester Research collection will curate resources focusing on the value of the vote, and the remodeled space will house the Pennsylvania Past Players, a troupe that showcases the region’s historical advocates for the rights of Blacks, women and others.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

IDEA Coffee opens second location in Cumberland County  

IDEA Coffee officially opened its second storefront Feb. 12, joining other businesses in the commercial district at Arcona, a Charter Homes & Neighborhoods community in Lower Allen Township. 

The new shop is at 1430 Market House Lane in the Crossroads at Arcona, next to Amore Pizza and SpringGate Vineyard & Brewery. 

IDEA Coffee, established in 2018, also has a location in Charter Homes’ Walden neighborhood in Silver Spring Township. It serves handcrafted food and beverages, including locally roasted Lonely Monk Coffee. 

“Coffeehouses throughout history have always been about local community and the sharing of ideas, so it just made sense for us to work with Charter and establish our shops in Walden and Arcona,” IDEA Coffee’s owner, Josh Willits, said in a release. “We feel right at home working alongside other dynamic local businesses and serving our neighbors, who feel like family.” 

New Cumberland coffee shop expands during COVID closure

COVID-19 has altered lives and shuttered businesses, resulting in an economic shutdown that has many business owners worried about their future.

Wade and Laurel Weiser are no exception. When the brother and sister were forced to close Brew Cumberland’s Best on Bridge Street in New Cumberland, they were initially dismayed. Then they realized that they could use the down time to their advantage.

The two decided to embark upon a project that they dreamed about for years but never had the opportunity to execute.

Shutting Down

Since opening in September of 2014, their business model stayed pretty much the same. 

“Because my sister is a pastry chef, she handles that side of things, with a lineup of scones, muffins, banana bread, cookies, quiche, baked oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches and soup,” Wade Weiser said.

For years, the two wanted to offer more food items, but were stymied by a small kitchen. “We wanted to renovate for a couple of years now, but knew it would require us closing for a month, at a minimum,” said Wade.

The coronavirus pandemic gave them that time.

The team began the renovation in May. 

“It’s a family affair really,” said Wade. “My dad owns a contracting business and we’re working on this together. It’s me, my sister, my mom, my dad and my fiancé. The supply chain has been smooth, for the most part.”

The project is being tackled in three stages. 

The dining room at Brew Cumberland’s Best before renovations began. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

“We focused on the front of the shop first and are currently waiting on flooring,” said Wade, adding that the front area lacked an efficient layout and resulted in congestion among customers and staff. “It is something that needed to be addressed, especially in the era of COVID,” said Wade, adding that they are also replacing concrete countertops with Formica, which is easier to clean. 

The kitchen expansion is also underway. “It’s the main reason why we wanted to do this in the first place,” he said, adding that the larger oven will accommodate more pastries and eventually allow them to branch into the wholesale arena. “Our baked goods were always popular, so we’re considering offering our services to other coffee shops, or places that don’t find it feasible to make their own baked goods,” he said.

The final stage will transform a storage area in the middle of the building to indoor/outdoor seating.  New garage doors, which can be raised and lowered depending on the weather, will be installed. “We are still waiting on the finalization of that permit from the borough, but for now we have verbal confirmation,” said Wade.

Coffee shops as a community hub

Don Kibler, Co-Director of the New Cumberland Revitalization Initiative, said that Brew Cumberland’s Best has been an important part of the community since their opening in 2014. “They have gourmet coffees, pastries and sandwiches for breakfast and lunch and are very good at what they do,” he said.

Prior to the pandemic, Kibler used the shop for business meetings about twice a week. “I considered it my second office,” he said, adding that he’s looking forward to the new, improved space. 

“It’s a community gathering spot and has extended our business corridor,” said Kibler, explaining that most commerce in New Cumberland is within a few blocks of Third and Bridge. “With this being at the north end of Bridge, we extend the corridor up that far and that’s important too,” he said.

he completed cabinets with countertops. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Arian Horbovetz belongs to “Strong Towns,” an organization dedicated to helping towns and neighborhoods be financially strong and resilient. In his blog, “The Urban Phoenix,” the Rochester resident stresses the importance of coffee shops as a community hub. “Coffee shops offer residents a chance to rally around a local business without making a large investment of time or money. They can spend two minutes grabbing a coffee to go, or two hours meeting with friends, loved ones and even clients,” he said. 

Horbovetz likes the approachability of small, independent coffee shops. “They act as a community forum, where, for a few dollars, anyone can have an elevated social experience and feel part of something that is driving their community forward.”

Project completion

The project is slated for completion between July 15 and 31 and, if they meet the deadline, their only obstacle will be the ubiquitous COVID. 

“The change from yellow to green will be a big one for us and our hopes are high right now,” Wade said, adding that if the county doesn’t progress into the green phase by that time, a back-up plan will be put in place. 

“We will open up the drive through and accept takeout orders,” he said, adding that they’re currently working on online ordering.

Despite the challenges, his team feels fortunate to be making progress and improving the business during this difficult time. “I’m looking forward to the day when Brew Cumberland’s Best can, once again, act as a community hub to bring people together to meet over a cup of coffee and enjoy each other’s company,” he said.

Lancaster organizations invest in Central Africa coffee producers

Van Gogh once said that “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together,” and that’s certainly the case when it comes to a triumvirate of Lancaster-based organizations that are making a difference in an area of the world that is among the lowest ranked in the World Bank “ease of doing business” ratings.

HOPE International, a Lancaster-based microenterprise development nonprofit began investing in entrepreneurs in the landlocked country of Burundi through its microfinance institution, Turame Community Finance in 2012.

Earlier this year, the organization began partnering with the Long Miles Coffee Project, following an introduction by Passenger Coffee, to provide salary loans to their staff.

Lancaster-based Commons Company, which sells Passenger Coffee, sought “B Corp” Certification, which included a focus on developing a more sustainable, beneficial, supply chain. In 2018, they received their certification through the help of ASSETS, another Lancaster-based nonprofit. “This unique collection of Lancaster-based firms and non-profits are collectively impacting a more challenged population,” said Kevin Tordoff, Vice President of Marketing, HOPE International.

The Long Miles Coffee Project

Ben and Kristy Carlson are just one example of how philanthropy can be contagious.

The couple, who relocated from America to Burundi, had a dream that they could facilitate direct and meaningful relationships with coffee roasters and coffee growers by producing great coffee and telling the stories of the farmers who grow it.

After time spent sourcing coffee in Burundi, they realized they could better control the coffee quality and price by building a washing station. Washing stations are where farmers drop off their beans, which are then floated in a tank. Underdeveloped coffee cherries float to the top so they can be easily skimmed off.

The Carlsons reported that in their first season, with the help of friends and blog readers, they sold the coffee before it hit the drying tables, which enabled them to pay farmers months before any other washing station in the area, and they quickly became established as a vital part of the community.

HOPE International’s Mission to Lend a Hand Up

HOPE International first became involved in microfinancing after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  At that time, founder Jeff Rutt, and the Pennsylvania church he attended partnered with a church in Ukraine.

After handouts failed to help the community, they began exploring other ways of helping and decided on providing access to small loans to empower Ukrainians. The effort was successful and today HOPE operates in 16 underserved countries, assisting hundreds of thousands of people through more than 2.7 million loans, totaling more than $800 million.

According to Tordoff, nearly three billion people in developing countries have no access to formal financial services. In addition to providing advances for salaries for the Long Miles Coffee Project washing station, HOPE International also fills the financial services gap through microfinancing, which they define as “providing financial assistance such as small loans to poor people so they can increase their income and decrease their vulnerability to unforeseen circumstances.”

This is done through offering financial services via microfinance institutions serving groups of entrepreneurs in economically impoverished countries like Burundi.  In addition to the contributions of clients themselves (through interest), HOPE International’s work is funded through charitable individuals and organizations. HOPE reports that 98 percent of the loans have been repaid in the past five years.

ASSETS and the Commons Company

Jonathan Coleman, Co-CEO of ASSETS, said that his nonprofit organization has a consulting arm that engages with companies to help them use their business as a force for good.

ASSETS staff worked closely with Crystal Weaver and Kyle Sollenberger, owners of Passenger Coffee, to improve and quantify their social and environmental performance, which enabled them to achieve “B Corp” certification. “In order to be certified, companies must meet rigorous standards across the spectrum of business operations, including their supply chains,” said Coleman, adding that there are only a few thousand businesses around the world are “B Corp Certified,” with 20 in Lancaster. It is a very high bar, so we are incredibly proud of companies like Passenger, who have reached that level,” he said.

Becoming a “Certified B” Corporation

Weaver and Sollenberger teamed up to become a “Certified B” Corporation to be held accountable. “It was the process of validating for ourselves the things we believe we were already doing and standing for.  Certifications are tricky in coffee. There are a lot of them that can be put on the bag to make the consumer feel good to buy it, but there’s not that much of a legitimate impact behind that. We knew that this would force us to come up with quantifiable systems. It’s all words unless we are quantifying what we do,” said David Stallings, Director of Coffee at Passenger.

Stallings adds that the certification requires the company to treat people fairly, pay a livable wage and pay a sustainable wage to producers. The certification has also challenged Weaver and Sollenberger to go even further by addressing additional factors when traveling to a country of origin. For instance, asking how producers are dealing with gender equity and other concerns.

Another upside to becoming a “Certified B” Corporation, according to Weaver is that employees are attracted to them because of their certification. “There’s a lot of energy in the 17-27-year old demographic. Many are attracted to companies that are thoughtful and that think about the earth and the environmental impact piece,” said Weaver.

Working together to make a difference

“The people at Passenger Coffee, who source their beans from around the world, connected with HOPE International and Burundi and now Lancaster has this wonderful, high quality, tasty product that is roasted and sold here and elsewhere,” said Coleman.  “And everyone who orders the Passenger blend from Burundi is also playing a small role by investing in the country and its people,” added Tordoff.

Coleman said that he’s proud that his organization can help others both in his area and around the world. “I think it’s very cool that these global business connections, which are empowering and infusing resources into a community in rural Africa, began right here in Central Pennsylvania.”

Broad Street Market coffee stand to open new storefront

Elementary Coffee Co. owner Andrea Grove prepares a coffee at her stand in the Broad Street Market in Harrisburg. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

A love for roasting coffee beans and a knack for management led Andrea Grove to open a coffee shop in the Broad Street Market in 2014.

Five years later, Harrisburg-based Elementary Coffee Co. is finding the market’s three-days-a-week schedule is not enough to satiate thirsty customers.

The coffee shop roasts its coffee in the market’s stone building and sells everything from lattes and cold brews to specials like The Dreamer, a drink with flavors of lavender and rosemary, from the market’s brick building.

In September, Elementary plans to move its roasting operations in the market to a new standalone store and roasting operation down the street to keep the business open every day.

The current coffee stand at the market will also remain open.

Grove learned how to roast coffee as an employee of St. Thomas Roasters in Lower Paxton Township. She worked as a roaster under the tutelage of St. Thomas’ owner, Geof Smith, and soon began managing some of St. Thomas’ operations and formulating her own cold brew to sell at the business’ stand at a local farmers market.

Elementary Coffee Co.’s newest location is finishing renovations for a planned September opening date. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

After going through the process of coming up with a product and seeing it become a reality, Grove realized she wanted to open her own business.

Grove was 26 when the business opened and, for the first two years, she kept a working relationship with her former employer, roasting Elementary Coffee Co.’s coffee beans at St. Thomas after hours.

Elementary Coffee’s Broad Street Market stand was a gamble for Grove when she opened the business in 2014. She said a friend gave her the idea to plant her budding business at the market but the market was not as popular then as it is today.

“It had been on the decline for so many years and so many vendors we loved left, so I just didn’t go in there because there wasn’t anyone I enjoyed,” she said, noting that the market’s manager at the time convinced her to give it a chance. “She was passionate about the city and the market and I was passionate about the coffee and the community and we merged those things.”

Two years after opening at the market, Elementary Coffee began roasting its own coffee at a second stand. The new stand was meant to act as a location for events and coffee tastings but Grove said it proved difficult to dedicate the time needed to grow customer interest.

With the coffee stand now reaching its fifth year, Elementary Coffee has outgrown its first home and plans to open its second coffee shop at 256 North St.

For Grove, the new location brings a bevy of options that were not practical at either of the shop’s market stands. She will be able to offer her employees full-time work and increase her staff from six people to 12.

“Being open only three days a week was beneficial for us at first, it kept people interested in us because they could only get our coffee three days a week,” she said. “But it became exhausting. Our staff has to work two to three jobs to make ends meet.”

The new space will give the company room to prepare products like syrups in-house rather than in Grove’s home. It will also allow Elementary Coffee to host community events.

Grove said her business doesn’t shy away from political advocacy and getting involved in causes that matter to her and her staff such as reproductive rights and pay equality for women. The new building will allow the staff to express these opinions without affecting the market’s voice.

The new location was expected to open earlier in the year but renovations to the building pushed the opening day into late summer or early fall.

Renovation of the North Street has been a major undertaking. The blighted building, formerly the French restaurant The Coventry, sat unused for over 20 years before it was purchased by Dauphin County Prothonotary Matt Krupp.

Grove said if by September there is still more work to be done, she could see Elementary having a soft opening in the new space with fewer food options and no seating.