Even as you drive by Central Coffee Roasters on U.S. 211 just west of the village, the intoxicating aroma of roasting coffee fills the crisp fall air. Venture inside some weekend (the shop is open to retail customers 10 to 5 Friday-Sunday), and you’ll find an intimate place reminiscent of a quaint European gathering place.
Shelves and counters are filled with whimsical European (mostly German) wood carvings and beautiful beer steins, bespeaking the ancestry of the shop’s charming founder and purveyor, Maggie Rogers.
The walls are decorated with her work: Maggie is a Corcoran Gallery of Art-trained printmaker, her printmaking studio tucked in the rear of the roastery. She’s also a “dedicated environmentalist and lover of history.” She and her family are slowly transforming their backyard into a nature preserve on the banks of the Thornton River.
The low-ceilinged Central Coffee Roasters evokes intimacy; upon entering, the term gemütlich came to mind immediately, a not-easily-translated German word meaning cozy, comfortable, inviting — and much more. On my recent visit, Maggie held signature court, donning a mischievous, infectious smile, and talked of the international selection of beans roasted, of her family’s beginnings founding the establishment. She exudes energy and is full of colorful stories; you can’t help but like her.
I attended one of Central’s ongoing series of Sunday evening concerts featuring small ensembles (including the well-known one started up by her three sons, Gold Top County Ramblers) performing “jazz, old-time, bluegrass, contemporary, celtic banjo, guitar and vocals.” (Details of the concerts at centralcoffeeroasters.com, or call 540-987-1006.)
The well-attended event featured Sperryville’s own Brooke Parkhurst of Triple Oak Bakery and her band Tinsmith. She sang and played with Rowan Corbett and Henry Cross, the group being “a high energy folk band playing traditional music of Ireland, Scotland and Appalachia and playing bass, guitar, tin whistle, banjo, flute, bones and Irish bouzouki and vox.”
My friend Doris and I were swept away to the lush green landscapes and savored the melancholy songs of lands whose countrymen celebrate their turbulent history with poignant ballads. Brooke’s pure voice rose into the air, crystalline, and her lyrics were so beautifully complemented by her command of the light, lilting flute.
Depending on where you visited this weekend around Sperryville, the closure of Shenandoah National Park as part of the federal shutdown was seen as either a boom or a bust — though the weekend of rain seemed to make matters worse at roadside businesses without as much roof to offer as other places.
Phyllis Swindler, owner of Beech Spring Farm, a little further west on the same stretch of 211 as Central and in its fifth generation of Rappahannock ownership, lamented the impact of the park’s closure on her family business. “By now, we’re usually into our second bins of apples. We haven’t even gotten through our first, and think of the impact this also has on the supplier. Typically, at this time of year, we’re open in the evenings with lights . . . we stay open till 9 p.m.; now we close at 6 as there is no more traffic.”
Eddie Gore, proprietor of the nearby roadside Bushels and Pecks of Bliss, mirrored Phyllis’ sentiments: “This three-day weekend, granted we’ve weathered the rain, but nonetheless, we’ve enjoyed only one-fifth of our typical business.” He also notes that his apples are largely undersold for this time of year. “This is typically a make-it or break-it month for us.” At his longtime fruit stand just east of town, Roger Jenkins said the roads were “dead quiet.” (And roads are something he’s grown intimately familiar on patrol with Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office.)
Jennifer Cable Perrot, owner of the Coterie shop at the Sperryville Schoolhouse, and Eric Kvarnes, proprietor of Glassworks Gallery, however, both said that while business was off, they’ve enjoyed several sales to folks who stopped by because they found the park closed. Cliff Miller IV said his Headmaster’s Pub and adjacent antique shop at the Schoolhouse were “faring very well” despite the shutdown. And last weekend, with two art opening receptions and an “apple festival” going on, River District Arts found its parking lot filled to the brim.
Business owners I spoke to were unanimous in their unhappiness with their federal government’s budget impasse, however, and its effect on local working families. Said one: “Perhaps Congress should be given a cut in pay, lose their 401K, live on $10- or $15-an-hour jobs and try to raise a family.”