They’ll tell you that they got the building for a song. “Re-use, re-cycle, re-purpose, re-claim” was the refrain. The composers’ final notes? A great cup of coffee, tasty eats, and a place for Blossburg folks (and those who would like to be) to hang out.
They are the Nickersons, and the place is the 242 Coffee Company on Main Street in Blossburg—a.k.a. “people’s third place.”
“People have home and work,” explains Jill Nickerson, who, with husband Shane, brought 242 to life about a year and a half ago. “We wanted people to have a third place.” Most important, the Nickersons wanted that “third place” to be in Blossburg.
The couple have been in and around Bloss most of their lives and made the decision to stay and raise their family (they have three kids) here. Shane, who also happens to be the mayor, has a construction company and has, over the years, collected what he calls a “treasure trove of stuff”—doors, hinges, windows, barn boards, tin roofing, school chalk boards, wood trim from various demolition projects, entire buildings—interesting and eclectic things with a lot of life left in them but temporarily, perhaps through no fault of their own, without an occupation. That was soon to change.
“We’d been trying to brainstorm things for downtown Blossburg,” Shane says. Jill, who serves on the borough council, had put together a survey asking residents and business owners about what sort of trees they might want to see on Main Street (trees on Main Street, any Main Street, are a big, and often quite opinionated, deal) and, with a bit of extra survey space, queried folks on what else they might like to see downtown.
What people wanted was a coffee shop.
And what Jill said to Shane was, “What about us doing it?” She had sold Toddler University, the day care she had owned and operated on Main Street for years, and was ready for a new project—not that being a parent and serving on borough council and on the board of directors for the borough’s Recreation Department and for the Tioga County Development Corporation wasn’t quite enough. Nor does Shane, with his construction business, his duties as mayor, as president of the board of directors for the Blossburg Memorial Library, have excessive amounts of discretionary time. Both are involved with V.I.B.E., which is shorthand for Blossburg’s Visions in Business and Entertainment organization and in their kids’ school activities—in short, they are two people who will answer the door when their community knocks and says, “We need you.”
So Jill went to barista school in Manhattan, and then she went to Portland, Oregon, to learn the business end of running a coffee shop. Shane, meanwhile, delved into his treasure trove—and that of some friends—and began refurbishing the 242 Main Street storefront. The thick slabs of asymmetrical tabletops came from trees that were downed in Blossburg’s Island Park during a windstorm several years ago. The funky aluminum community bulletin board that runs more than halfway down one side of the shop came from the façade of the Davis Furniture building in Wellsboro when it was overhauled to make way for the Deane Center for the Performing Arts, as did a quantity of redwood trim. Tongue-in-groove boards on one wall were once part of the Ponderosa Motel, which used to be on old Route 15 between Covington and Mansfield. The ceiling tiles are square-cut tin from barn roofing. The menu chalkboards used to be in a school. There are bits and pieces from a bowling alley. Old postcards depicting Blossburg-area scenes have been transformed into poster-size wall art.
Shane estimates that 70 to 75 percent of 242 is re-used material. Even the floor has a backstory. The building was home for years to a dairy store/lunch counter known as Mabel’s. Shane points out where the lunch stools used to be attached to the floor and where, from years of folks sitting at those stools, the floor has indentations from the customers’ feet.
The café, for all of its amazing history, is, of course, also about food and drink, and the story there is local, too. The coffee is from Alabaster, a roaster in Williamsport. The coffee-making equipment came from Wellsboro’s Wired Rooster coffee and Wi-Fi café. (Those folks are now in the process of transforming another storefront in Wellsboro—more about that in an upcoming issue.)
“One of our signature drinks is the Coalie,” says Jill, who was the main menu planner. “It’s like a cookies and cream frappe.” Yum. The menu includes made-here soup, salads concocted with Northern Tier Greens from Troy and Tioga County Greens from the Blossburg Elementary School’s own hydroponic growing room, breads from Baxter’s Bakery in Gaines, bagel chips from The Native Bagel in Wellsboro, and sweets from Cupcakes by Tirsa in Liberty and Laura Lee’s Cakes, right down the street in Blossburg. Internet accessibility is part of the plan, and it’s more than okay for folks to come in and work on their laptops, even if they don’t buy anything.
Which brings us to one more jewel in the 242 crown. The café, along with the Brick Tavern, Momma’s Restaurant, and Roupp’s Cornerstone Restaurant (in Arnot) participate in “coffee pending.” It’s like pay it forward—one customer buys a coffee, or whatever, for someone else, someone who may show up today or tomorrow or next week and need a friendly face, a friendly place, and maybe lunch or a Coalie, but is a little short on cash.
As the Nickersons say, “the people of Blossburg are incredible.”
“The whole thing of us becoming more community-minded, well, we realized how lucky we are to live here,” says Shane. “There are not too many places left like Blossburg.”
“If we can create a few jobs, fill up a storefront...” muses Jill, smiling, “We don’t have a beach house. We have Blossburg, and anything extra we give it here.”