AMHERST — For Amherst residents looking for a place to grab a cup of coffee, Second Stage may soon have them covered.
The nonprofit is pursuing a lease with a potential tenant to operate a coffee shop in the arts center at 194 Second St., said Suny Monk, the organization’s president. A yoga class studio, a massage therapist and a jeweler are among nine full-time tenants bringing traffic through the former church, she said, and a coffee shop makes sense to reach those visitors and a broader audience throughout the county.
A coffee shop is a suitable fit for Second Stage and could provide full WiFi wireless internet access and serve as a comfortable gathering place in a central spot in Amherst next door to the county administration building, the epicenter of local government.
“We’re so excited about it,” Monk said. “It’s a welcoming atmosphere, which is what we’re trying to provide in so many ways.”
In May 2015, the nonprofit entered into a lease agreement with Amherst County to use the vacant 11,000-square-foot facility. Last year it hosted roughly two dozen performances and special events and attracted more than 9,500 visitors, according to a 2018 annual report the nonprofit presented this week to the Amherst County Board of Supervisors.
Monk said she envisions a side area in the main floor next to the sanctuary added in the 1920s as a perfect spot for a coffee bar that could attract heavy use, especially in the morning. A lot of folks have told her if a coffee shop were to locate on site they would have meetings there, she said.
In a rural community without a commercial coffee chain or gathering spots for coffee drinkers, she said a new shop could quench the thirst of a need in Amherst.
“It’s pretty bleak, I’ll tell you,” she said of the lack of options.
Coffee shops she knows of also attract folks that will spend an hour or so and look around while they are in town, Monk said.
“I hope it will be a service,” she said.
She said an organization Second Stage looks to as a “big sister,” the Rockfish Valley Community Center, a former school on Virginia 151 in Afton that serves as Nelson County’s flagship gathering hub for tenants, artists and businesses, has reaped the benefits of Trager Brothers Coffee operating there in recent years.
Stu Mills, executive director of RVCC, said Trager Brothers has had a lease there for the past five years.
“It’s been wonderful for us,” Mills said. “I can say that unequivocally.”
He said the coffee operation’s presence makes the center a popular gathering spot in the mornings.
“It creates traffic in the building for other tenants. It’s been a win-win,” Mills said.
Second Stage hosts markets for farmers and artisans and last year helped facilitate just more than $158,000 in income for tenants in its studios, market vendors and talent on its stage, according to the 2018 report.
“We built a lot of trust with supervisors and the other way around,” Monk said of the county lease. “It’s been such a nice arrangement and I think we’re all feeling good about it.”