Launching a business is never easy, especially in hard times. So, that makes the fact that both Advance Auto and the Texas Tavern were born in Roanoke during the Great Depression and flourish till today all the more remarkable.
Fast forwarding to pandemic- and lockdown-stricken Roanoke on March 6, 2021, when Beth Woodrum and her son Chris opened Chris’s Coffee & Custard sporting the tagline “Where hot coffee meets cool friends!”
Located at 1824 9th Street in Southeast Roanoke, their establishment features lusciously thick and creamy custard made daily. In addition to that signature dish, they also offer coffee, milkshakes, muffins, sandwiches and more. One can sample the treats in one of two dining rooms, or on their patio under umbrellas, which affords a fine view of Roanoke’s iconic Mill Mountain.
Entering the eatery, one is greeted by cheery welcomes and a delightful aroma of dairy and baked goods.
On top of the treats and ambiance, customers there can know they are helping meet an important need and opportunity in Roanoke. Chris has Downs Syndrome, and the Woodrums seek to offer meaningful employment for members of our special needs community.
At age 26, Chris explains that he wanted to start this business because “it’s my dream come true.” He and the rest of the staff engage willingly in conversation with all their patrons and conscientiously attend to their needs.
The site of Chris’s eatery has historic significance. Located off 9th Street in Southeast just a few blocks north of the Roanoke River and Greenway, it occupies a corner of the old Viscose plant. Begun in 1917, that factory produced rayon, then known as “artificial silk.” By 1928, it employed 5,500 people and was reportedly the largest rayon-producing complex in the world. During WWII they produced parachutes and other materials for the Allied war effort.
Beth Woodrum points out a large metal plate covering part of the floor in the larger dining room. She explains that, because of WWII, a series of tunnels were built under the entire complex so people could move around safely in case of an aerial bombardment.
You can learn more about the American Viscose Historic District here.
To learn more about Chris’s Coffee & Custard, their story, and to see their current opening hours, visit their website.