Monday, May 19, 2014

@ Charleston Coffee House in Downtown Lorain

Hold The Coffee steps foot in Lorain County for the first time this week with a review on a popular coffee destination in a not-so-popular downtown district.

Now if you look close enough, you can see that Amy's foot
is in the corner of the frame. I don't leave people out of 
Quite fittingly, that's the coffee shop profile I love most--ones that tries to steer their neighborhood versus fitting into them. Charleston Coffee House has such a unique atmosphere that it draws people like myself, Andrew Cass, Amy Popik and boyfriend Matthew Sellers to carpool 42 miles west of Euclid for a cup of coffee on a Saturday.

Not exactly true. All four of us had been planning a trip to nearby Sheffield Village Saturday, May 10, to watch a community musical and, like always, no adventure of mine is complete without a visit to an unfamiliar local coffee shop. (The musical we went to see, "Sunday in the Park with George" at TrueNorth Cultural Arts Theatre, was featuring the talents of friends Devon Turchan and Kate Atherton. I would include a link on how to buy tickets for the show, but their season wrapped up last Sunday.)

We were also drawn out to Lorain County to meet Morning Journal Reporter Jon Wysochanski (I call him Wyso) and his wife, Casandra.

This portion of Braodway Avenue looks like dyed brick, 
but it is actually stamped asphalt.  It's still beautiful.
Our group had a roundtable discussion over this issue.
But most importantly, this trip to Lorain County was finally the excuse I needed to visit Charleston at 630 Broadway Ave. My former managing editor Laura Kessel told me about this place soon after I started my blog, glorifying its interior and its role in a possible downtown revitalization.

That Saturday, I got a first-hand account to this coffee shop.

Location: Lets be honest, I don't hear many good things about Downtown Lorain. In fact, I've never heard anything good about it. A person of high trend authority told me nearly a year ago Downtown Lorain is like an expanded version of Downtown Willoughby, but with plenty of abandonment and little vitality. That sounds like potential waiting to happen, but I am not so sure on how far along its leaders are from meeting that potential. I found this promotional Youtube video on Lorain's revitalization movement before our groups' visit, and when it highlights the city's dining scene, it shows footage of an Applebees. Yes, an Applebees, and I don't think it was done in irony.

Gorgeous coffee mugs, but our group was impressed 
in the least over the staff's use of Stryofoam instead of a glass.
We need to be thinking green!
My group and I didn't really see much of any downtown restaurants during our visit, at least not ones that were open on Saturday. I am relieved to see Charleston has pretty lively hours on Saturdays, not a common thing to see among coffee shops in downtown areas. I hope some entrepreneurs in retail, dining and apartments can join forces to revive Downtown Lorain's beautiful and pedestrian-friendly streets.

Food and Beverage: Charleston provides plenty of the familiar beverage items seen at neighborhood coffee shops. And on top of that, Charleston's menu offers sandwiches, bagels and soups.

That Saturday, Matt and I ordered a large coffee, a large coffee cafe (which I thought was just coffee at first) and a plain bagel with cream cheese for $7.

This is the Atrium one resident showed us during our tour.
Most of these doors are apartments and hidden out of the
frame are four small birds that call this atrium home. All
of this sits behind the coffee shop.
Space and Atmosphere: If you know me, you already know one of my favorite buzzwords is "mixed-use." I am not talking about a Target with a Starbucks inside. I am talking retail or eatery on the first floor and apartments or offices on the floors above. Maybe even with underground parking or a parking garage.

That Saturday, our group had the pleasure of a getting a tour of Charleston's two stories by a resident. (Somehow Wyso had worked his magic to get this done prior to our group's arrival.) It was a magical tour, but I'll let one photo do the talking.

The coffee shop itself, however, is magical to see as well. Not many people are attracted to mismatch furniture, but I am. It's colorful, personable, unique, green and I want to see more of it from coffee shops.

You know what else I love seeing? Exposed brick. Charleston doesn't have any exposed-brick walls, but it does have exposed brick floors. Ground. Breaking. If I was allowed to swear in this blog, I would've added a hyphenated expletive between those words. I've visited more than 35 local coffee shops in my life--a good chunk reviewed in this blog--and this is the first one I've seen with a brick floor. (Or at least one that is so noticeable.)

Look at that floor. Wood-panel and exposed brick. Can
anyone top that?
Despite the risk of this brick floor causing some unintended bleeding among barefooted patrons, I would love to see more of this from local coffee shops and interior decorators in general.

A place like this can change people's perceptions on Downtown Lorain, much like Amy's opinion on Charleston changed throughout our stay at the coffee shop. (I think she was impressed by the table all six of us we sitting around--a re-purposed door.) At first, she expressed queasiness over the coffee shop's non-matching tables and chairs as well as the doors and door frames mounted around the walls of the shop.

Charleston Coffee House: a "door to a re-purposed world."
That queasiness turned into appreciation of art near the end of our visit as she told me: "It is like opening the door to a re-purposed world!" That's success in action, folks.

Again, if you have suggestions of a coffee shop for a future entry, send it to me via on Twitter at @SimonSaysNH.

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