Sibling Coffee Roasters Opens in Charles Town
For Libby Powell, it started with a carnival-type popcorn popper that her kids got her as present. Thinking it might be fun to repurpose the popper to roast coffee, Libby began to experiment a quarter cup of beans at a time. Encouraged by rave reviews from family, she upgraded to a small coffee roaster and started selling coffee beans at the Clarke County Farmers Market in early 2017. It was an informal operation, with plain brown bags and hand-written labels, but Libby was surprised at the demand.
At the same time, she was also mulling over the direction of her professional career. Twenty years as an ER nurse and another five working post-op were wearing on her and she was looking for a change of pace.
After taking a roasting course, and with continued support from her family, Libby expanded the vision she had for her operation. She didn’t have a specific business plan as much as a goal — to provide a place for conversation. As Libby describes it, “a coffee shop not a place to argue a point, but a place where people could come together, see a welcoming face, share a smile, to feel comfortable as they are.”
In the fall of 2019, Libby connected with Angie Jones who was looking for a tenant to replace B Vintage which was moving down the street. By February of this year, her shop was up and running. Libby noted the assistance she received from Charles Town officials. “Seth Rivard was really helpful. There were some tricky details to navigate with putting in the venting for the roasting machine in the tight spaces in this old building, but we were able to come together to figure out a solution that works.”
While Libby has also had to confront additional challenges created by the arrival of COVID-19, she notes that she has not had to face these challenges alone. “The business community coordinated by Liz Cook has been pulling together too,” said Libby. “We were excited with the welcome we received when we opened in February, then downtown became a ghost town in March, April and May. We really relied on each other for mental support as we’d look out our windows to see if there was even a single car passing by on the street. In the community too, I see people are talking to each other more — there seems to be a real hunger for conversation and a desire to connect with others.”
Talking about her own plans, Libby notes “as a nurse, I’m used to dealing with health precautions and disinfecting, but it’s the customers’ concerns that are more complex. I’m fortunate that I’m able to offer multiple options, with curbside pickup, tables and chairs to the front porch, and now opening up the inside counter with the health guidelines. So far we seem to be able to put our patrons at ease and I enjoy seeing and chatting with the people who are becoming regulars. We also sell all of our coffee online and I’m optimistic about the next year and looking forward to my next challenge, to expand my staff and be open throughout the week.”Staff Contributor