BERLIN — After two years of ups and downs, Peggy Hagy and her son Jason have learned a little about running a coffee house but a lot about their customer base. Last week as the Berlin Coffee House prepared to celebrate its second anniversary and to begin its third tourist season, the Jason reflected on the various successes they’ve had and boiled it down to relationships.
“We’ve always tried to focus on our regular customers,” Hagy said. They ran specials throughout the day and so encountered a good mix of regulars and people interested in test driving the atmosphere.
The radical difference between the different customers was the regulars did appear to savor the anniversary. There was a kind of unspoken understanding about the role their daily cup of coffee or even occasional lunch played in maintaining the Berlin Coffee House as one of the town’s staple shops.
The Berlin Coffee House responded by being sure to participate fully in the Berlin 2nd Friday Art Stroll as well as other town wide events fostering the arts. Almost without exception they have had performers for 2nd Fridays and regularly and ardently promote their monthly featured artist. In fact, current artist of the month Patti Backer has sold most of the work that was featured and has always had good fortune showing at the Berlin Coffee House.
In addition to maintaining a strong relationship with their regular customers and making first timers feel at home, they continue to develop an impressive relationship with their coffee supplier, Notting Hill Coffee Roastery in Lewes, Del.
Hagy has always, he said, enjoyed the solace of his regular coffee-purchasing drives and has been rewarded for his interest with special blends developed with the Berlin Coffee House in mind. He’s also been able to request roastings, securing blueberry and strawberry coffee for the anniversary party.
Unlike many mass produced blends, Notting Hill doesn’t use prepared sugar-heavy flavorings. Coffee beans can act like flavor sponges, taking the headier or even subtler aspects of whichever fruits and spices are stored with them.
Rather than use syrups then, Hagy’s choice of flavored coffee retains the imprint the Berlin Coffee House tries to invoke on all aspects of their business — stick with the intensely local as often as possible.
In fact, the Berlin Coffee House now stocks Summerbridge Tea, a Stevensville company that blends their own teas.
“It’s not only local, almost everything we use we get from someplace on Delmarva,” he said.
And among the most popular of the locally produced menu items is ice cream from Chesapeake Bay Farms. Almost to a person as the regulars came in they asked if the ice cream was back in season — the Berlin Coffee House tends not to carry the fresh ice cream in the winter — and as word spread that it was once again for sale the non-coffee drinking regulars were tempted in my the proposition.
By supporting local artists, business and events, the Hagys and their coffee house have insinuated themselves in the most positive way into the community. From the start they’d planned to establish a year round alternative gathering place and even if that was all they succeeded in doing, that would have been enough.