Crozetians clamored for a coffeehouse for years and in July got two. The Mudhouse opened on The Square and Trailside Coffee opened in Old Trail Village, and both immediately had fans. Green House Coffee, a project in the works for two years, will open this month on White Hall Road immediately adjacent to the Dairy Queen. Owner Camille Phillips hesitated to give a firm date because there are several renovating tasks to complete, but she predicted that the public will be welcome by the third week of September.
The cute old house—1920—is on a narrow but deep 3/4 acre lot with a lawn in the rear that Phillips said will hold a tent for party events. She plans to put picnic tables there. The parking lot has eight places, the most that were possible after conforming to the county’s stream buffer rules, on a pervious concrete surface. Rain water runs down through it into an 18-inch deep bed of gravel below.
In the side yard, back from the street and under the shade of a tree, is a picket-fenced area for kids that will have a sand table, a playhouse and toy trucks to play with. Immediately next to it is a patio, edged with azaleas, hydrangeas and cedars, with umbrella-shaded tables and seating for about 24.
“The brick retaining wall [along the patio] makes a good backdrop and actually it feels sort of cozy here,” Phillips said. “You’re in downtown, but it doesn’t feel like it.”
“It took seven months to get through the [county] planning process and get the plan approved,” she said. “The sidewalk along Crozet Avenue and the parking lot presented us problems and they took time.” And no doubt money too.
Inside, the snug house was gutted and the second floor removed, although its floor joists still tie the walls together. “We [she and husband Kurt] basically took it apart. We’ve done all the work ourselves except for the trades.” There is seating for 25 inside in the bright main room and a new kitchen, bathroom and pantry/sink area. A new heating and air-conditioning system was installed. Phillips said the furnishing style will be “country chic.”
Phillips is retiring from her 21 years as a nurse at U.Va. hospital to run the shop. “When our kids were young and I went to the [Crozet] library with them, I wanted a place to go with my friends afterward. I love to serve people. I love to bake and I love old houses. You can meet your friends here and not have to clean your house.
“I loved the idea of recycling an old house and saving things. I wanted to do it eco-friendly and we want the business to be environmentally conscious.” She plans to plant a garden in the back next year to supply some things for the kitchen. She gave it the name Green House to emphasize the gardening and environmentally friendly theme.
“We’ll have homemade soups, salads and sandwiches, coffee shop drinks, ice cream desserts, and baked goods. The coffee will be Shenandoah Joe’s. Everything will be made from scratch and seasonal and local. That’s what we mean to focus on.The hours will be 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.—breakfast and lunch and after hours for parties and events that we cater. Breakfast will be wraps and hearty sandwiches and fruit and baked goods.”
She’s hired a staff of 12.
“It’s been very fun to see the vision in your mind come to fruition. In hindsight it doesn’t seem like it was that hard to do. I was ready for a challenge. The community has been wonderful to us.”
Daisy Sandridge, who lived in the house as a girl, dropped by to share some photographs of the house in earlier days. Phillips said she will display some of Mac Sandridge’s photos in the shop and will have an exhibit soon organized by Crozet historian Phil James. She also wants to host exhibits by local artists and Western Albemarle High School students.
She said she is “waffling” about supplying Internet access because with her relatively small seating area she can’t afford to let customers virtually take root at a table. But the fact is the house picks up wireless signals from neighboring sources anyway.
Next-door neighbor Craig Dougald—the gray Victorian cottage with the bay windowsaid he’s happy to have the coffee house opening next to him. Dougald, the owner of Crozet Music, operates his instrument repair business out a workshop in the house’s front parlor. He plans to move to another house next winter and give over the whole place to his business, expanding it to include music lessons in guitar, piano, drums and brass instruments. He plans to install a sound-proofed room. He’ll also handle consignment instrument sales and rentals, and have a small showroom for new instruments and accessories.
“I want to be a full-service music center for the area,” Dougald said, “and to sponsor performances—at Green House Coffee, for example.” Besides his 17 years as an instrument repairman, he teaches music part-time at Woodberry Forest School in Orange and is a drummer in local bands.
Dougald said he hasn’t talked to county officials yet about parking requirements, but he is willing to remove the old garage behind the house if necessary. A small, usually dry, streambed slices his lot diagonally, complicating his options.