Local coffee house provides positive atmosphere for teens

STAR Intern

Coffee Company waitress Natalie serves Elizabethton teen Amy Holmes a cup of coffee as she takes a break from her hectic day by stopping in the restaurant. Photo by Jessica Taylor

   Downtown areas used to be meccas for teenage activities, as local drugstores provided soda counters for teenagers to hang out after school and drive-ins provided night-life action.
   Today things are quite different in the downtown Elizabethton area. Gone are the days of soda fountains in stores such as Hale's Drugstore and Woolworth's. Gone are drive-ins like the Blue Circle. Now in the 21st century and the "information age," more and more teens are traveling to Johnson City to explore its name-brand stores and high-profile eateries.
   Further away from home, New York City and other large cities have been hit by a wave of coffee chain stores: a Starbucks on every corner. However, what many teens are discovering is that this new wave of coffee houses that is sweeping the nation is closer to home than they think.
   Since its opening in late April 1997, The Coffee Company has been a popular meeting place for local teens. Whether because of its food, drinks, or classic blend of hometown atmosphere with savvy city chic, the establishment provides a safe alternative for many teens and gives them a positive atmosphere in which to spend time.
   Weekday mornings, along with many business people who stop in for coffee before they go to work, many students also stop by The Coffee Company for a variety of hot and cold drinks. Drinks offered range from flavored coffees to various flavors of chai, a unique blend of coffee, tea, and spices.
   "We have a church youth group from Memorial Presbyterian who comes every Friday before school. They start the day off right, with their friends in a good atmosphere, before they go tackle the day ahead of them they have somewhere neat to go," said Lisa Bunn, who along with her husband, John, owns The Coffee Company.
   Brian Wakefield, a member of the Memorial Presbyterian youth group and rising junior at Elizabethton High School, goes to The Coffee Company Friday mornings before school. "It's a good place to go during the school year because it's a quiet place for devotions. You can also see your friends before a hectic school day," he says.
   Although The Coffee Company is usually only open Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., last fall the Bunns decided to open their doors following the Elizabethton High School home football games.
   The Bunns realized that there was little for teens to do following the home football games. "There was nothing else open at that time, except for fast food restaurants. We wanted to do something different, to just have a great place for parents, kids, and everybody to go after the games," said Bunn.
   Although their Friday night menu is limited, that doesn't discourage teens. "We just have desserts, chips and drinks," said Bunn.
   "On Friday nights after the games there is usually about 50 or so teenagers," says Bunn.
   Socializing often proves one of the greatest excuses for a trip to The Coffee Company.
   Local teenager Rebekah Edgar, a rising junior at Elizabethton High School, commented, "I love to go to The Coffee Company because even if I go by myself, I still see people I know. On Friday nights after home football games there is great food, wonderful service, and tons of people you know."
   The Coffee Company also provides a serene atmosphere for teens to study or do homework.
   "Weekdays kids come after school to study," said Bunn. "Some just hang out with their friends."
   Live music nights featuring local musicians such as Rick Simerly also draw large teen crowds. "Probably 50 percent is teenagers," says Bunn. "They seem to really enjoy it, and I'm sure Rick is a major factor in that number as well."
   "We're glad because we're providing a good and safe atmosphere for teenagers," said Bunn.
   Many teen organizations find The Coffee Company the ideal place to hold meetings
   "The Elizabethton High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes has had its meeting here a couple of times. We like for our restaurant to be used in that way. We feel like its a ministry more than we see it as a business," said Bunn.