Serving up community

Published 9:51 am Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rich aromas poured from coffee pots draw a variety of patrons to many of Shelby County’s cozy coffee shops.

But coffee house owners believe the atmosphere keeps them there.

“We really bust our butt to make people feel welcome,” Bean Hole owner Gary Moon said. “One or two of us together probably know 90 percent of our customers by name.”

Knowing people by name or by what they sip on each morning creates community, Moon said.

At Eclipse Coffee & Books in Montevallo, community brings itself in a mix of faces. Mothers browse the shelves of books while toddlers run around their feet. Two steps away a group of college students study for a test while a table of older men sit discussing politics.

“It’s kind of a community center,” said Cheryl Patton who owns the shop with her husband, Michael. “At any given time you’re going to have a mix of age groups at the counter.”

Patton said the shop tries to offer different events to entice all age groups. The coffee tends to attract customers in the morning, but trivia nights, poetry slams and wine tastings also do the trick at night.

Casey Morris, co-owner of Ekklesia Coffee House in Chelsea, said teens and families appreciate having a comfortable gathering place.

This weekend customers have the chance to hear live tunes from Michael Warren while they savor something sweet and chat with friends. Ekklesia also offers game nights each Tuesday at 6 p.m. and if anyone is interested, someone to talk with about the Bible.

Bean Hole in Hoover provides a comfortable place for Bible study as well, with about 30 different groups meeting there throughout the week. Moon said one professor at Southeastern Bible College even holds class there from time to time.

Few towns in Shelby County lack a coffee house. Erick Boggs, new owner of Big Mountain Coffee Company, was afraid Helena might lose its own last month.

Boggs took ownership of Big Mountain Coffee Company, which was most recently run as a ministry of Elevation Church.

Boggs said he didn’t want to see the coffee shop close.

“We have people every morning that come in before work and they sit and talk with one another,” Boggs said. “That is a very important part of their day. Losing Big Mountain would have been bad for Helena.”

The shops provide instant friendships and a place for community members to stay in the know and caffeinated for the day ahead of them.