New shop plans to perk up the city

Main Street coffeehouse also to donate to charities


July 14, 2002|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Westminster's Main Street is about to get a java jolt.

The Pour House Cafe is ready to serve a cuppa joe in a colorful, family-friendly environment. It's wired for the Web, it's a gallery for local artists and the owners are promising to share some of their proceeds with local charities.

"It'll make a distinct impact on this community," said Sandy Oxx, head of the Carroll County Arts Council, one of the organizations that is to benefit from donations from the coffee shop, scheduled to celebrate its grand opening today. "We just don't have nooks and crannies you often find in more urban areas that add to the quality of life."

Oh, and owner Janet Hollinger promises to brew a mean cup of coffee, too.

"Everything we do is a work of art, whether it's something we're selling or something you're pouring into your cup," Hollinger said. "One of the things I decided was that there was no place that was super-child friendly, that offered over-the-counter healthy food and a place to sit down and have a great cup of coffee," she said.

Hollinger and her husband Scott, a third-generation Westminster resident, researched coffeehouses in Maryland, Virginia and Washington this year to get ideas on how their business would work. In March, they started converting the circa-1875 house at 233 E. Main St. - which they've owned for three years - into a coffeehouse with the flair of the Central Perk shop on the TV show Friends. Previously the space was used for Hollinger's marketing firm, which she's closed to pursue her dream of running a cafe.

The Hollingers painted every day and night until 3 a.m. for a month, to add bright hues of green, yellow and red to the walls. Janet Hollinger also painted the tabletops. Customers settling into cushy chairs in the living-room setting of the main dining area will be surrounded by a variety of artwork, most of it local and for sale.

With high-speed Internet hookups, patrons will be able to sip and surf the Internet at the same time - for a fee - at three iMac computer terminals.

The Pour House menu will feature four flavors of coffee a day; specialty drinks such as mocha lattes, cappuccino and Italian sodas; light sandwiches without chips on the side (reinforcing the healthy perspective of the owners); whole-leaf teabags; and fresh pastries. Java cup jackets will do double duty as frequent-customer cards to encourage recycling.

Patrons will be able to buy six different kinds of whole beans to brew at home. The cafe sells Fair Trade coffee, which guarantees private coffee growers a fair price for their harvest.

Pint-size patrons can sit in a section dubbed the Man in the Moon Cafe by Hollinger's 7-year-old daughter, Ferris.

The cafe's main competition is outside of downtown. In the Safeway at the College Square Shopping Center is a substation of West Coast coffee powerhouse Starbucks.

"Some on the other side of town will probably go there, but we offer coffee as part of the one-stop shopping experience," said Paul Green, manager for the grocery store on Western Maryland College Drive. "We hope those that know Starbucks will continue to patronize it."

The main difference between the two is the way coffee is made, said Hollinger. She said her seven baristas (the Italian term for trained espresso servers) will make cold-pressed coffee - a toddy - which she said takes away the acids that may make hot brewed coffee unpalatable for some people. Starbucks uses a hot-water method. Hollinger's pride and joy is a laPavoni espresso cappuccino maker "fresh off the boat from Italy."

Every weekday, the cafe will contribute 2 percent of its profits to a different charity. She said she has a soft spot for nonprofit organizations that have to compete for money.

"It's tough out there," Hollinger said. "We're all tired of spending our money and not making a difference."

People buying coffee on Wednesdays will be contributing to the Carroll County Arts Council. Hollinger's children have taken art classes at the Arts Council. That led her to approach Oxx, the council director, and offer to donate. Once a month, Hollinger will send the Arts Council and the other four recipients a check.

Although Oxx has a coffee brewer in her office down the street at Winchester Exchange, she said: "I want someone else to make it for me. It makes you feel spoiled. With my work, I need a treat - a cheap thrill."

Bonnie J. Grady, president of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce, said Hollinger's familiar face - she has been active in local businesses and nonprofit organizations since she moved here in 1984 - will probably draw people into the cafe. She has volunteered with several groups, including the Carroll County Children's Fund, which will also be a recipient of Pour House proceeds.

The coffee, she said, is also bound to be an attraction in its own right.

"There are some serious coffee drinkers in this town," she said.

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