by Gene Marrano
When the construction industry goes south, what to do? Open a coffee shop – that’s what David Kelly is doing in the former Mojo Café space (2825 Brambleton Avenue) when the Coffee Time café opens its doors early this month. Coffee Time will do more than serve java drinks; Kelly will also feature Homestead Creamery ice cream and healthy foods including salads and sandwiches for the breakfast and lunch hours he intends to be open.
Kelly hopes to pick up some of the Mojo crowd, calling his new venture “a rebirth.”
Kelly, who plans to buy his coffee from local roasters, believes sourcing his coffee locally is important, since it helps someone in Roanoke keep their job. “If everyone could do that, a lot more people would be working,” he reasons.
“I was looking for a little change, I think,” said Kelly, who was aiming for an October 1 opening but expected that to slip a bit. He’s doing the renovation work himself. Due to some miscommunication with Roanoke City zoning officials his original intent to offer drive-through service may or may not work out; Kelly is also planning on an outdoor seating area as an alternative to being inside.
The interior is adorned with some of the antique items Kelly has collected over the years, including a giant, non-functional clock he rescued from an antique shop in Pennsylvania. It hung in a cabin he had in Floyd until that was sold. An antique coffee grinder Kelly picked up will greet patrons outside as they enter Coffee Time.
A triathlete and avid bicyclist, Kelly hopes that Coffee Time will become a stop for bike clubs, runners and others that pursue athletic endeavors. He’ll also make the café available to civic groups that want to hold meetings there. “I was here about every day [when it was Mojo Café],” said Kelly, who recently sold an ice cream shop he owned in Troutville. Opening hours at first will be 6 a.m. – 3 p.m., but that could be adjusted in the future. He is considering offering acoustic music down the road, too.
There’s also a monthly coffee club – pay $40 per month, leave your cup at the café, and come in any time for a refill. “You won’t have to stand in line,” said Kelly, who has also hired a former Starbucks barista to help prepare the fancier coffee drinks. He plans to employ people with lively, engaging personalities. “I [want] it to be like Cheers,” said Kelly. He may keep a TV tuned to non-mainstream sports like soccer, snowboarding and bike races – “we’re just going to do the weird stuff.”
There are other coffee house choices in the southwest part of the city and in neighboring southwest Roanoke County – Star City Coffeehouse is right down the block, Mill Mountain Coffee will reopen on Starkey Road in the old Bank of Floyd site soon and the “Froth” coffee shop/restaurant makes its debut in the old Mill Mountain location on Starkey within the next week or so. Kelly takes heart, however in the 70,000 vehicles that drive down Brambleton Avenue every day. Many of those folks will want coffee. “I think it’s going to be neat – [and] more than a coffee shop. I look at it as more of a people business.”
For many of those in the construction industry, if they haven’t branched out into other ventures, as has Kelly, “they’re just sitting around whining about it. You’ve got to be able to bounce. [Construction] is just as dead as it can be.” David Kelly has bounced over into his new role as the proprietor of Coffee Time Café.