Located at 64 Olde Main Plaza in St. Albans, the Coal River Coffee Company brews and vends not only a bevy of freshly roasted coffees, teas and other beverages and foods, but it also serves as a showcase for local artistic talent and a hub for community involvement and improvement.
Husband and wife Michael and Rachel Ervin opened their business in August 2018, and, nearly a year later, they said, their out-of-the-gate success has exceeded initial expectations.
“We originally thought I would just work here by myself and have a couple of people come in a day,” Michael said. “I didn’t see it becoming as big a business as it has today.”
Coal River Coffee Company has grown from two employees at the outset to nine, and a lunch menu has been added to the culinary selection. The coffee Michael roasts now includes wholesale, restaurant and online outlets.
The St. Albans natives want to parlay their prosperity into bolstering Olde Main Street and the community at large. Their shop features a gallery of local artists’ pieces, area authors’ books for sale (along with a used book shopping space) and live entertainment weekly.
This month’s performers and speakers at the Coal River Coffee Company will include the Little Lawnmowers — playing early jazz and blues tunes, among others — at 7 p.m. Friday; musician Jenny Allinder from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 21; area authors Andrew Spradling, Larry Ellis, Shelly Jarvis, Andrea Franco-Cook and Susan Stumpf from 10 a.m. until noon Saturday, June 22; and musician Jeff Riddle at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 28.
“We have some local high school students who come in. It gives them a place to play and practice in front of people and showcase their talent and what they can do,” Rachel said. “That’s always fun.”
She said churches have hosted worship services at Coal River Coffee, and Michael officiated a wedding there last month.
“It was two people that met and dated in junior high, broke up, lived their lives, met at a high school reunion here at the shop last fall and reconnected, fell in love and got married here,” Michael recounted.
“We set out to have a place where people can gather, where people can come and connect. I think we’re seeing that,” Rachel said.
The Ervins are also among the organizers of the second annual Yak Fest, to be held in conjunction with the annual Tour De Coal river float, on June 14 and 15 along Olde Main Plaza. Yak Fest will feature a variety of vendors, attractions and live entertainment. More details regarding the Yak Fest activities are posted at yakfestwv.com
“Our mission statement and slogan is ‘Roasting Coffee, Brewing Community,’” Michael said. “We’ve been wanting to ‘brew community’ in St. Albans. We’ve been able to do that in various ways. We recently started a new community effort called Coffee with a Cop, where we partner with the United Way. We’ve had two of those so far. They’ve been very resourceful and helpful. We’re getting ready to start a new task force that will bridge a gap that we see with police and the homeless. We have this resource group that can come in and provide some housing and things police didn’t have before for homeless people.
“Part of the ‘brewing community’ is a revitalization movement for the city,” he said, “and we’re rallying around the tourism mindset of the Coal River, but also the historic nature of Olde Main, the quaintness of it and just kind of what it can offer and what it can be. I’m part of a couple of groups that are thinking through ways that we can upgrade Olde Main, restore some of the buildings and encourage entrepreneurs to open businesses that fit within our vision. I’d love to see an outfitters’ store here, a kayak rental or outdoors shop, farm-to-table restaurants, things like that.”
“Looking back to where Olde Main was a year or so ago, there were quite a few empty buildings,” Rachel said. “There are still some vacant storefronts that would be awesome to have some of the things Michael mentioned in there. We’ve also seen other businesses open here. ... I think the more we work together to grow Olde Main as a community staple, the more it will grow.”
“It’s happening. We’re encouraged. We’re excited. But we know there’s more coming, and there’s so much potential on Olde Main. We’re actively looking for grants and other opportunities for getting money to do more things here,” Michael said.
“We’ve learned a lot and are continuing to learn. As the business just kind of exploded and grew, we believe it will continue to do that. We want to keep our identity of being local and being about bringing the community up with us.”
“Michael and Rachel Ervin are great community partners,” St. Albans Mayor Scott James said. “Not only do they run a great — and one of the fastest growing — businesses in town, but they’re very involved in the community and promoting the community.
“They came to me about starting a hashtag,” the mayor cited as an example of the Ervins’ community spirit and civic initiative. “I said, ‘Guys, I’m 60 years old — I don’t know what hashtag means.’ We met and developed a City of St. Albans website. It’s not our official website, but when you use the #gotosawv hashtag, all of that is sent to that website.
“They really want St. Albans to grow to become an even greater community than it is now,” James said.
“We wouldn’t be here without the community,” Michael said. “They’ve completely embraced us, bought into the vision and they’re really a part of what we’re doing.”
Coal River Coffee Company’s regular business hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. The shop is closed on Sundays.
For additional information, visit www.coalrivercoffee.com, the company’s Facebook or Instagram pages or call 304-389-0140.