The Guide Shack Café, at 1102 Washington Street, Harpers Ferry, opened in the spring of 2016. When you come up on it, your first thought might be: that’s a great spot for a coffee shop.
Once inside, you realize this is more than just a coffee shop. It’s a veteran-owned, operated, and sourced endeavor—one that owner Chris Price, an Air Force veteran, felt called to do as a way to not only honor his fellow U.S. military brethren, but to help them (and in doing so, help himself) deal with life after service.
Absolutely, the Guide Shack has all the conveniences of a modern coffee shop, but it could also easily double as an outdoor recreation store. “Basically, I was training for a mountaineering guide job in January and February by backpacking around Harpers Ferry,” said Price. “But I could never refill my thermos with decent coffee, so this café is an opportunity to provide quality coffee and espresso to the locals (and myself) while encouraging an atmosphere of outdoor adventure.”
The ultimate trail-town coffee stop (complete with Kayak in the window and backpacks hanging randomly), the establishment would be engaging enough if it ended there, but Price had another motivation. “I served twelve years in the Air Force. When I got out in 2012, I was struggling with the realities of life, particularly birth and death, comrade suicide, moving across the country, becoming a civilian, etc. I was abusing drugs and alcohol, and life was spiraling out of control for me.”
He got help through the Martinsburg VA and was introduced to Team River Runner—a veteran-centric organization that promotes healing through paddle sports. “From there, I became a member of the local paddling community, and was able to reconnect with my own sense of adventure,” he explained. “I began to guide blind veterans kayaking whitewater, which inspired me to help other vets in my own way. Long story short—a combination of a lack of coffee availability in Harpers Ferry, a desire to encourage adventure, and a motivation to help the veteran community spawned the opening of Guide Shack Café.”
Another distinguishing characteristic about Price’s shop is that it works almost exclusively with veteran sources to supply high-quality and locally sourced goods to customers—while giving back to veteran organizations that encourage healing through adventure. An example of that: a percentage of sales go back to Team River Runner—where Price originally sourced his own healing.
“When we can’t source from veterans, or we have an opportunity to work with local businesses, we consider that partnership if they’re interested in donating a portion of the sale to nonprofits that support veteran healing,” he added. “Additionally, we have three veterans on staff here, including myself.”
Through his experience with PTSD, and the recovery, Price has found that he is most at peace when he has a mission to help other veterans. “By combining adventure, java, and helping my fellow veterans, I hope we can all have a positive impact on each other.”