BERLIN — Peggy Hagy and her son Jason started the Berlin Coffee House in what has so far been one of the worse years to open a business this century. As they prepare to celebrate their third year in business, the almost feel ready to breathe a sigh of relief.
“We’ve really gotten to a good place as far as our customer base and the way we run things,” Peggy said.
Although it is almost obligatory to credit one’s customers upon achieving a certain level of success, anyone who cares to poke their head through the door at a certain time on a given day will see familiar faces.
Early on, the two planned to focus on being the open all year and cultivating a community presence that has become a thing of the past in many coffee establishments.
From the first they emphasized local music and local art, bought products from local purveyors and made people feel as if they were welcome to linger over coffee or tea. This last part was particularly important, as it helped to convert the occasional visitors into regulars.
Comfort has been critical from the beginning and one would be hard pressed to find a more comfortable place to sit and chat over a cup of coffee. Eventually they began to add lunch specials which opened them to another market. Their three core customer types — the lunch crowd, the occasional lingerer and those who attended their regular arts events — made up a base of dependable customers that, by their second year, started to help the Berlin Coffee House turn a corner.
Since the Berlin Coffee House isn’t on Main Street, an early concern was enticing people to turn the corner at the Atlantic Hotel and head down the street. As they enter their third year, however, off-Main Street or not, the Berlin Coffee House is transforming into a destination. People sometimes happen to meet there but oftentimes they plan to meet there.
Another boon in their second year was the return of the tourist trade. Almost from the first the Berlin Coffee House featured Chesapeake Bay Farms ice cream. People who happened upon both the shop and the fresh, locally-made ice cream made it a point to return. By last summer, they’d become a destination for summer visitors. Stories of people who have now turned going to the Berlin Coffee House as a traditional part of their annual vacation are becoming increasingly common.
Recognizing that it is not a marketing point but rather pure fact that their regular customers have been loyal ones through the last three years, Jason and Peggy have planned an anniversary event to coincide with the 2nd Friday Art Stroll.
The Berlin Coffee House has been an enthusiastic participant in the Art Stroll since they opened their doors so when they make an even bigger deal out of it it will certainly be worth checking out. They support local artists and artisans throughout the year, Parri Backer’s work is still prominently displayed as well as the organic soaps, lotions and specialty products made by the Berlin-based Upper Room Studio.
Music will be provided by Edward Sparks, who has become something of the traditional anniversary performer and the Berlin Coffee House will serve treats during the 2nd Friday event as well. Also for those who have had the forethought — and you still have a chance to if you haven’t yet — they will provide a free cup of coffee to anyone who brings in their Berlin Coffee House mug.