Elwood Thompson finally gathers enough cast-off materials to launch its café, a whole menu dedicated to whiskeys, and more.
by Deveron Timberlake
Look deeply into the new concrete countertops at Ellwood’s Coffee and you’ll see the future: bits of broken glass, construction detritus and the occasional Miller bottle cap, all fossilized into green.
Everything about the coffee house, opening this week across the parking lot from the natural-foods grocer, relates to environmentally aware building techniques, from the dual-flush toilets to compostable to-go cups, salvaged street signs made into outdoor tables, Lucky Strike factory panels hanging as wood soffits and walls covered in tinted American clay instead of paint.
This is the long-planned “corner of consciousness,” as nearly delirious ET staffers are calling their expansion, and there’s more to come. An outdoor mural by Richmond artist Ed Trask will cover the exterior walls of both grocery store and café, presenting a united façade at the mouth of Carytown.
The enlarged grocery store, planned for a spring unveiling, will give more square footage to dining tables and merchandise. First up, though, the coffeehouse — called the Community Place — will be open daily, serving sandwiches such as the ton of funghi and the tempeh Reuben, along with a sampling of chef Jannequin Bennett’s seasonal repertoire.
Local wines and beers will be poured, but the centerpiece of the operation is the $11,000 Clover coffee brewer, which makes “a clean and personal cup each time,” say the baristas, who’ve been training since July and who rate their Counter Culture Coffee organic, direct-trade beans the best available.
Inside the building, which once housed the High’s Ice Cream and sandwich shop and more recently the Blue Fox Café, furnishings are comfortably noncorporate. A big table by the bookshelves can house meet ups and community groups. Live music and open mic nights are in the works, and there’s “free-range Internet,” as they call it. There are teas by Herban Avenues and Rishi, even reference books and classics in a take-one, leave-one arrangement helped along by donations from Chop Suey Books. Kids can play with all-natural toys in the corner.
“This fulfills our mission,” store CEO Ryan Youngman says, “which is sustainability in a business that has a soul — it completes us.” For now, at least. Ellwood’s continues its expansion into Northern Virginia, and the future here could also hold a housewares division. Looks like caffeine will be a necessity.
Ellwood’s Coffee is open daily, 6 a.m.-10 p.m. 10 S. Thompson St. 612-1827. www.ellwoodthompsons.com.