PIKETON — When Pike County native Jennifer Chandler travels for work or pleasure, she sets out to find the best independent coffee shop in town. Drawn to unique locations or old buildings repurposed for the community, she often wondered why something like that didn’t exist in Piketon.
Though she has a passion for coffee, Chandler lacked experience in starting her own business. After reading a book on how to succeed in the coffee business from Columbus-based roasters Crimson Cup, Chandler gained the knowledge she needed and launched The Village Brew.
It started as a pop-up shop a few days a week during the summer but with the completion of a $2.5 million investment project in the former elementary school, now called The Square at Piketon, the coffee shop has found a designated space for the community to gather.
“Coffee shops are a place where people hang out, do work and meet. I wanted to bring that into the community,” she said. “We have good things here. Why not Piketon?”
Prior to opening The Village Brew, Chandler worked as an independent project management consultant on development and environmental plans across the country. As part of her job involves grant writing, Chandler tries to integrate herself into the communities she visits by seeking out small businesses to support.
Often, she finds herself at the local coffeehouse because she believes the independent businesses have a way of waking up a community just like the first sip of a cup of joe.
Through her role on Piketon Village Council, Chandler’s become involved with local efforts to improve the town. When they learned that investors were interested in the former school building, they sold the property and expected it to be torn down.
Instead, the building was renovated to inspire more business opportunities. With its finish, the community hopes it will act as a catalyst for change much like the Carlisle Building did in Chillicothe.
Chandler developed a business plan and started becoming more serious about her idea. In May 2020, she officially incorporated The Village Brew. A few months later, in July, they started brewing.
Every Saturday Chandler went to the park and operated a pop-up coffee shop but as the demand grew so did their business offers. Later, they began serving customers during the weekdays, too.
“Once we started selling, we couldn’t stop,” Chandler said. They later added mobile ordering and delivery services which helped further the business, too. By first operating as a pop-up, Chandler was able to see how the community would respond and felt confident as a business owner.
In January, The Village Brew was able to move into its location at The Square at Piketon which has only helped business. In the official space, Chandler said they’ve been able to serve superior products while creating a community gathering place.
Now when Chandler walks into work, she’s met by the sounds of coffee beans grinding, milk steaming and the chatter of friends and strangers preparing to start their day.
In addition to providing coffee drinks like the popular Village Brew Mocha, the shop also serves pastries made by local bakers and other food products. But when starting her business, Chandler had the end in mind.
Through kindness, excellence and community, she hopes to use her space to empower other women entrepreneurs and young artisans by providing them an avenue to learn about the industry or sell their own merchandise. Ultimately, she wants this to inspire people and lead to more business ventures in Pike County.
“I want to provide a platform for people. Coffee brings us together,” she said. “It’s exciting to be part of the momentum.”
On Tuesday, July 13, Chandler and her team celebrated their first year of business with a small celebration at The Village Brew. The day was filled with community events like yoga, planting and painting. In the future, Chandler hopes to provide more activities for the community.
With the success of the past year, she added that there might be an expansion to New Lebanon or other small towns.
In other business news
First Capital Nutrition has moved from its 13 W Second St. location to the front of Schlegel’s on North Paint Street. Dauntless Roots Plant Co. will be moving into the now vacant Second Street location with an August opening.
Bell Farms, located at 59 E Water St., is now open for indoor dining. They’re open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday for dine-in or carry out.
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