Summer has officially started and downtown Harrisonburg is once again open for business, following some temporary closures due to COVID-19. An exciting new addition to the downtown Harrisonburg scene is the second location of a local coffee shop currently gaining a national reputation for high quality, ethically sourced coffees.
Merge Coffee Company was founded in 2017 by two different families who came together through a shared love of coffee. Cousins Darryl and Charles Mathews and sisters Emily and Larisa Martin started out getting together as friends who stayed up late drinking coffee. They were all impervious to the effects of caffeine, enabling them to drink coffee until midnight, and then go soundly to sleep. They began to source coffee from all over the country to sample different types. That led to the purchase of a 1 pound coffee roaster and a hobby of roasting “terrible” coffee. Gradually, the group got better at coffee roasting and their friends started to enjoy their efforts. From there, the hobby became a business.
Merge started their business as a coffee roaster that sold to established coffee shops, then expanded into a retail location in Park View at 821 A Mt. Clinton Pike, next to A Bowl of Good. Co-owner Darryl Mathews explains how direct trade sourcing is a key aspect of the business. “For us, sourcing well is very important, most of our coffee is direct trade, purchased directly from the farmers. Coffee is the third largest commodity in the world. Because of this there are a lot of middle men typically involved in the coffee supply chain, which ultimately doesn’t help on the farm end for their profits and being able to invest in infrastructure. So we eliminate those middle men, so that the farmers get a better profit margin, but also reinvest in infrastructure”.
Merge’s primary supplier is a multigenerational complex of over 10 farms, started three generations ago by a pair of brothers in Honduras. All the farms are still run by members of the Santiago family, and among the various farms grow a wide variety of different coffees. “They can serve everybody as far as their coffee tastes go, within these farms,” says Darryl. The Santiago farms produce several coffee varieties that are certified fair trade organic, but the certifications, which the farmers must pay for, apply only to certain lots on the farm. For Merge, it is more important that they and their customers know they are sourcing responsibly whether or not there is an official government certification. Darryl explains, “Fair trade organic is not as good for the farmer as it sounds, because the cost of getting and keeping that certification up could go towards other things.” Currently Merge carries seven different types of coffees from different parts of the world. Some are certified organic, and most are bought directly from the farmers.
Although a young company, Merge has already won two awards for coffees they roast from the Specialty Coffee Association. The SCA hosts an annual, national coffee roasting competition, with about 20 different categories into which coffee roasters can enter their various coffees. Merge entered two African coffees, one from Ethiopia and one from Burundi. Darryl described both coffees as being “very fruit forward”, with the Ethiopian roast having berry notes and the Burundian roast having a stone fruit flavor. Out of 1200 coffees, these two were included in the top 150 coffees chosen, winning Merge two bronze medals.
In addition to their commitment to direct trade relationships and an excellent quality product, Merge is also passionate about community building and heroic hospitality.
“We love the fact that coffee shops are a springboard for communities to flower,” says co-owner Darryl. We enjoy being the canvas for people to come in and work on that podcast, work on that book, get to know friends, debate, reflect. We love to be that canvas for neighborhoods to dream, to explore, and to grow.” After putting down roots in Park View, Merge has recently opened its second location in downtown Harrisonburg, at 425 North Main Street. The light-filled, airy interior has clean lines punctuated by vibrant green plants. Darryl describes the company’s aesthetic as fresh and modern, but still comfortable and inviting. The atmosphere feels warm and open, reflecting Merge’s vision of a coffee shop as a space for community building. Service is another important aspect of Merge’s business. “We want to serve people well with excellence, and have a great experience, we want the experience to always be consistent,” Darryl explains.
Both Merge locations are now open Monday through Saturday from 7 am until 4pm.
In addition to their coffees and classic espresso drinks, Merge is featuring some signature summer beverages. Darryl shared some highlights from the summer menu. “One thing that’s really popular right now is our coconut macaroon latte. That’s an iced latte with coconut, a little caramel and toasted coconut garnish. And for the non-coffee drinker we’ve got a rose gold lemon soda.” The soda is made in house from fresh, hand-squeezed lemons. “It’s a sparkling drink with a mineral-based glitter that goes in it as well. So it has bit of a shimmer to it.”
Merge’s new location is a welcomed addition to a vibrant, and growing downtown Harrisonburg scene. It is sure to become a hotspot for excellent quality, ethically sourced coffee and a neighborhood hangout. For more information about Merge, please visit https://www.mergecoffeeco.com/.
As a follow up to the 2017 Blog, the Eastern Mennonite Elementary School (EMES) is now open!
Eastern Mennonite School (EMS) welcomes you to a celebration and to a dedication of their newly-renovated elementary building on Tuesday, Jan. 28 from 4 to 6 p.m.. The gathering begins at 4 p.m. with comments, recognitions, dedication prayers, ribbon cutting with the Chamber of Commerce, and self-guided building tours and refreshments.
Guests are invited to park in the gym lot at 801 Parkwood Drive and cross the new footbridge to the outdoor gathering. Limited spaces are available for accessible parking directly off of Route 42. Call 540-236-6000 with questions.
EMS is a faith-based private school located in Harrisonburg, VA. With just over 350 students in grades K-12, the school is large enough to offer AP courses as well as photography and robotics, yet the school is small enough for teachers to know and mentor each student.
A hands-on approach to learning is the hallmark of EMS. Also, integral to the EMS educational philosophy: Critical thinking, the integration of the arts, and following the ethical and spiritual example of Jesus. Founded in 1917 by the Mennonite Church, the school is now a community encompassing people of many faiths and traditions.
The school’s newly renovated elementary building features classrooms with natural light, offices, play areas, and green spaces. There is also an exciting addition of a teaching kitchen where children can learn cooking skills. The building is located on Rt 42 with a bridge connecting the elementary building to the middle school and high school campus. The elementary school is a little over 14 years old and currently has 94 students enrolled in grades K-5. This new building will be a permanent home for the program, which was housed in several locations in past years.
In addition, the building is imbued with spiritual significance. Blessings and thanksgiving have both been incorporated into the building process. Before officially moving into the building to begin classes on December 10th, the school hosted a special chapel to thank God and acknowledge all those who contributed to the construction of the building, including donors, vendors, and tradespeople.
Prayers were offered and contributors were brought on stage for special recognition. In order to bless the space, visitors also wrote prayers and blessings on panels which were encased within the drywall. Eastern Mennonite School has created a space especially to educate and enrich the whole person, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
For more information about Eastern Mennonite School, please visit easternmennonite.org.
The Stonewall Jackson Inn of Harrisonburg is currently undergoing a revitalization. Located downtown at 547 East Market Street, the historic establishment is under new ownership as of August, 2019. A former dietician and a businessman, Becca and Joel Graham are breathing energetic new life into one of Harrisonburg’s hidden gems.
Last Thursday, November 14th, the Harrisonburg Homes team had the opportunity to attend a lovely open house at the Stonewall Jackson Inn, featuring wines by Brix and Columns Vineyard, hors d’oeuvres by Sub Rosa’s Kirsten Moore, and home goods by Lineage Goods. Visitors had the opportunity to tour the house and chat with Becca and Joel.
Built in 1885 as a single family mansion, the home was first turned into a bed and breakfast in the 1990s. Featuring 10 bedrooms of different sizes and configurations, the house is cozy and intimate. Each room is named for a different historical figure and is uniquely decorated, for a boutique feel. Rooms combine antique furniture and decor with modern conveniences, including a thermostat in each room and free wifi. For a hint of luxury, beds are appointed with 600 thread count sheets and each room has a naturally scented Lineage Goods candle. Rooms range from $149 to $189 per night for two people and include a gourmet breakfast. Rooms can sleep from 1 to 4 guests and bed sizes range from king to twin depending on the room.
With a passion for entrepreneurship and a thirst for something different from the 9 to 5, Becca and Joel Graham were looking for a business they could develop together. They discovered The Stonewall Jackson Inn after renting an apartment from the former owner and decided to buy the establishment from him. They set about giving the place a light makeover, purchasing some new furniture and clearing out some of the clutter to refresh the home’s ambiance. The makeover includes a new breakfast menu with recipes developed by Becca. The Grahams put an emphasis on making the Inn a community endeavor by partnering with local businesses. For example, the sausage served at breakfast is locally sourced. The Inn also features a small gift shop where guests can purchase locally produced goods, including the Lineage Goods local, hand-made soy candles found in each room. Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, just down the street, also has a special relationship with the Stonewall Jackson Inn, referring all their clients to stay at the Inn while they are in town for fly fishing tours. Joel, a fly fisherman himself, speaks enthusiastically about this partnership and his desire to cultivate more relationships with local businesses. The Grahams are always looking to meet new people and make new connections within the community.
Harrisonburg community members are welcome to stop by and check out the Inn during between 10am and 5pm, provided they call in advance. Recommending the Stonewall Jackson Inn to out of town guests is a great way to get involved and support a local business. The Inn is also available for gatherings and events of all kinds, including parties, retreats, and business meetings. Local clubs and groups looking for a space they can meet in are also welcome to look into the Inn. For more information about booking rooms and event space, call 540-433-8233. Guest rooms can also be booked online. Guests of the Inn can invite local friends and relatives to join them for a memorable breakfast at the Inn. To learn more about the Stonewall Jackson Inn, visit https://www.stonewalljacksoninn.com/.
What’s the antidote to buying cheap, plastic goods produced in countries with questionable human rights records that you know will end up in a landfill someday? Buy locally sourced, sustainably produced and durable products that can last for generations. Where do you find such mythical-sounding items? Check out the Alexander Brothers’ wares.
The Alexander Brothers are a company of four brothers working out of Timberville, providing Harrisonburgers and other Virginians with affordable, beautifully handcrafted, durable and sustainable goods. Trained in traditional craftsman’s trades, including blacksmithing, woodworking, and leather crafting, from a young age, the Alexander Brothers spent years honing their skills, which they view as art forms. One brother apprenticed at the Frontier Culture Museum as a blacksmith.
Items available for sale on their website, Facebook, and Instagram include kitchen ware, such as knives, cutting boards, bottle openers, and pizza cutters and leather goods such as journals, wallets, and tote bags. One of their newest items is the 8 inch chef’s knife. The knives’’ wooden handles are hand crafted from wood collected from trees during the brothers’ backpacking trips in West Virginia and Virginia. The wood used is specifically chosen for the presence of burls, which are abscesses or growths on a tree that produce a striking circular pattern in the wood’s grain. The wood is kiln dried, stabilized with an epoxy resin and slabs are created from it. The blades of the knives are forged from 15N20 steel. The knives are so popular that they’re almost sold out. The brothers are planning to produce a new trout and game knife hopefully in time for Christmas.
This blog’s authors were gifted by brother Shea Alexander with their award winning bottle opener. The bottle opener is produced with either walnut or maple wood and hand-forged iron. It’s small enough to fit on a keychain but has the heft of something substantial. Beautiful and rugged, the iron is subtly faceted and contains the company’s boldly classic logo. In Virginia Living’s forthcoming November issue, the bottle opener is receiving a Best in Virginia award.
In addition to their online venues, Alexander Brothers products can be found locally at Lineage in Downtown Harrisonburg and Randy’s Hardware, which has locations in Bridgewater, Timberville, and Mt. Jackson. Their products can also be found at Lost River Trading Post in West Virginia. More local opportunities to shop Alexander Brothers wares can be had this Saturday at Shenandoah Autumn Fest, at Spring Creek Roller Mills, Showalter’s Harvest Fest, and the Timberville Christmas Village. Supplies are limited, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to purchase some very special holiday gifts!
“Mashita” is Korean for “delicious” and the restaurant’s food lives up to its name. Slated to open at 105 North Liberty Street in downtown Harrisonburg the first week of October, Mashita will serve a wide range of Korean-inspired dishes as well as beer, wine, sake, and non-alcoholic beverages. Diners can take different approaches to the menu, whether they want a tapas-style experience with many small plates or a traditional meal. Mashita offers low prices in comparison to competitors, with many options priced at $10 or less. The space is clean and modern, but also colorful, with a bold mural and local art pieces as well as traditional Korean art and artifacts.
Owner and chef Mikey Reisenberg started the restaurant as a food truck, which is still in operation at 105 North Liberty St., six years ago. Mashita gained a local following for its Shenandoah Valley brand of cultural fusion. Take Korean comfort food as your starting point, apply French cooking methods to locally sourced ingredients, add a Valley spin, and the result is Mashita. Mikey describes his cuisine as a mashup, equal parts traditional Korean, urban American, and classic southern. It may come as a pleasant surprise to diners new to Mashita that Korea and the American South share some favorite comfort foods, including melt-in-your-mouth brisket and crispy fried chicken.
Mikey credits his Korean heritage, his adoptive American family’s competitive cooking, and his French culinary training at The Joshua Wilton House as sources of inspiration for Mashita’s food.
His journey started with his family’s foodie culture, where he first learned how to identify good food. With seven aunts and great aunts who cooked, he describes family reunions as a competition to see who could make the best food. Although he’s worked in independent restaurants since high school, cooking at The Joshua Wilton House was a formative experience for him. Current executive chef Tom French and former chef and owner Mark Newsom critiqued his food and introduced him to Korean American chefs, like David Chang, who were innovative in adapting Korean comfort food to American palates.
To those who have not yet experienced this relatively new fusion, Mikey describes Korean flavors as savory, acidic, and “funky”. The funkiness he refers to comes from pickled and fermented food like kimchi, or fermented vegetables. In addition to a brisket sandwich and chicken katsu, or Korean style battered fried chicken, house-made soft steamed buns stuffed with juicy meats are staples of the restaurant. This author was delighted by the flavor and texture combinations of the food. Mashita’s dishes satisfy Korean and American cravings, and their menu items cater to vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free diners as well.
Mashita’s Shenandoah Valley identity is embodied not only by locally sourced and house-made food, but by the decor of the restaurant and a mission to give back to the community. Mikey made the tables himself with rocks, live edge walnut, and food grade epoxy resin. The wood was sourced from Black Forest Saw Mill. Mike Arellano painted the restaurant’s striking mural, and Craig Snodgrass designed the logo. Even the succulents lining the windows are from David Sutton at the Harrisonburg Farmer's Market. Once the restaurant is in full swing, Mikey and the Mashita crew want to pay it forward by allowing diners to purchase five dollar tokens to give to those in need. The tokens can be redeemed for Mashita food, which Mikey points out is a very nutritious meal. Mashita has already found a home in Harrisonburg and in the Valley, now it's here to stay with a new location in downtown Harrisonburg that is sure to please regulars and newcomers alike.
A hidden treasure of Harrisonburg that many residents have yet to discover is the Sub Rosa Supper Club.
A private, invitation only club, it meets regularly in Harrisonburg and the surrounding area at uniquely appointed homes, local businesses, and recently, the woods!Each dinner has a different theme with a menu to match. While the dinners are invitation only, anyone can register for the club and request an invitation at http://www.subrosasupperclub.com/.
Sub rosa is a Latin idiom meaning “in secret”, whose literal translation is “under the rose”. According to the Sub Rosa website, roses were symbolic of secrecy in ancient Rome, and elegant houses featured paintings of roses to suggest that whatever transpired under the influence of wine at a dinner party was to remain secret. Most of the details of each event are not revealed, maintaining their air of secrecy. Invitees learn first the time and date, and later the address of the event.
Each dinner is a carefully crafted experience centered on a unique theme, incorporating the location, the decor, and the menu. The multi-course dinners are small enough to be intimate, but large enough for lively conversation. The table is typically set for 30 attendees, and each attendee may only obtain two tickets, to ensure that a broad cross section of guests will encounter new people. While “casually elegant attire” is suggested, guests are encouraged to come as they are and express their individual identities.
A recent article on the Virginia Living website shed some light on Sub Rosa. It is the creation of Kirsten Moore and Jennifer Sodikoff, who started the club three years ago, inspired by the idea of bringing people together to explore new foods and new locations in their hometown. Moore is in charge of the food while Sodikoff creates the ambiance for the event. The inspiration behind each event is different and can come from finding a great location or a particular chef. The club meets semi-regularly, once a month or every other month.
Dinners are planned to balance opportunities for trying new foods with a sense of comfort that’s accessible to all palates. Food allergies and dietary preferences are gladly accommodated upon request. While the food is central to the event, the deeper purpose is community building. According to their website, “We want people to discover new spaces and foods, but more importantly new faces. Sitting around a dinner table with strangers can be a powerful means of community building. We think that's pretty important these days.”
Each event is documented on their website with a description, menu, and photographs. Events are beautifully captured by a professional photographer. A recent foray into the George Washington National Forest included a rustic menu themed Flora + Fauna. The six course meal featured ingredients foraged from the forest, such as berries and chanterelles, or wild mushrooms. The main courses were grilled rainbow trout and venison medallions, with a wild blackberry mousse for dessert.
While the weather interrupted with a rainstorm that prompted a slight change of location, guests were also treated to a spectacular double rainbow. It was all in keeping with the adventurous spirit behind the events, which aim not only to introduce people to new places and flavors, but to bring strangers together around a table to find common ground.
For more information on Sub Rosa Supper Club, please visit http://www.subrosasupperclub.com/.
Photographs by Sarah Featherstone
This blog is part of the Best of Harrisonburg Blog Series.
We at Harrisonburg Homeowner had the privilege of visiting with the founders of Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters. Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters is a local coffee roaster organization located right here in Harrisonburg, Va. Chestnut Ridge is not like other coffee shops within the area however. They are in fact not open most days. Their primary way of conducting business is by selling their phenomenal coffee to local businesses, catering, doing professional coffee cuppings, and other such events. However, you can buy the coffee online with three different delivery options: by mail, by giddy-up, and free pickup during their Saturday hours.
Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters typically offer between 4 to 5 different coffees including one decaf at all times. They are continually rotating their inventory in order to offer seasonal coffees from some of the top coffee producing countries in the world. They also never repeat the same coffee twice. They choose their coffees by sampling between 30 to 40 different types and picking the best 2 to 3.
Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters are looking to do more private events within the greater Harrisonburg area, so if you are interested be sure to reach out to them at the link below. If you want to swing by to try the coffee, tastings are offered every Saturday from 8am to noon.
If you have any other questions regarding Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters be sure to reach out to either us at HarrisonburgHomeowner.com. Or Chestnut Ridge Coffee Roasters at https://chestnutridgecoffee.com/
A less exotic, but equally enjoyable activity that Massanutten Resort offers is golf. Massanutten Resort is home to two conventional golf courses: Woodstone Meadows Golf Course, and Mountain Greens Golf Course. Woodstone Meadows is an 18-hole course with 5,065 yards of golf, and a par of 65. Woodstone Meadows has generous fairways allowing for golfers of all capabilities. The Mountain Greens course is more challenging, and is generally recommended for intermediate to advanced golfers. It is an 18-hole course with a par of 72/73. A variety of different tees are available with the longest tees equating to 6,443 yards of true, mountain style, golfing. Apart from the two conventional courses, Massanutten also offers FlingGolf, a relatively new sport that essentially combines elements of golf and lacrosse. Instead of swinging a golf club, players use a FlingStick to fling or whip the ball down the fairway. Massanutten also has a driving range, lessons, and leagues available for those that are interested.
Official Page for Massanutten Golf
This blog is part of a Massanutten Blog Series
Massanutten’s Family Adventure Park is one of its most daring attractions. The adventure park is a one stop shop for climbing, tubing, ziplining, rappelling, and more. The largest of these features is the Mega Zip. The Mega Zip is an 800’ zipline fully capable of reaching speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Another ziplining option is the Canopy Tour. The Canopy Tour incorporates four different ziplines in addition to a variety of other obstacles that takes up to an hour and a half to complete. The Ridge Rappel and Climbing Excursion is yet another great option for any daredevils. An enjoyable chair lift ride leads to a quick hike where participants are eventually able to rappel down two cliffs with the experience and guidance of a trained safety instructor. The largest of these two cliffs is an exhilarating 58 feet tall. After the cliffs, participants are guided through a rock climbing experience, based on physical ability and comfort level. If these options sound a bit intense, don’t fear. Massanutten also features a Kids’ Adventure Course targeted for ages 12 and below that still sparks fun and excitement, but in a well-controlled environment. Other great activities at the Family Adventure Park include a 16-30’ climbing wall, the QuickJump (a 30’ free fall sensation), summer tubing, and Kids Playland (play area complete with inflatable bounce houses and gem mining).
Official Page for Massanutten Adventure Park
This blog is part of a Massanutten Blog Series
One of the best options for obtaining fresh, healthy food, in the city of Harrisonburg is the local Farmers Market. The Farmers Market is located at 228 S. Liberty St. right across from Rocktown Kitchen and behind City Hall. The mission statement of the market as described on their website is “to provide the public with easy access to fresh, nutritious, locally produced agricultural goods and crafts of the highest quality, to assist local and regional farmers and other producers to directly market their products to the local customer base, and to support environmental stewardship and community well-being.” The farmers market hours differ by season. The summer market is april through thanksgiving, and it is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8am to 1pm. The winter market is from December through March and it is open from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays only. Credit, debit, and EBT cards are accepted. Due to food sanitation guidelines only service dogs are allowed at the farmers market. If you are interested in the vendors, history, and the market government please contact Mattias or visit https://www.harrisonburgfarmersmarket.com/