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/.
It’s fall and right now there’s starting to be more leaves on the ground then there are in the trees. It’s time for Harrisonburg’s annual leaf collection. Read on for details on getting your leaves collected in Harrisonburg.
The following information comes from harrisonburgva.gov.
Leaf collection begins Monday, November 18, 2019. The City is separated into the east and west sections with leaf trucks assigned to each section on alternating weeks. In the heavily forested areas a specific truck is assigned for leaf collection.
The City of Harrisonburg Public Works Department will be starting the annual curbside leaf collection on November 18, 2019.
Leaves are vacuumed up Monday – Friday for four weeks excluding Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving. Leaf collection continues for four weeks with the following schedule, weather permitting:
West Side of Main St. & Forest Hills
East Side of Main St. & Fairway Drive
November 18 - November 22
December 2 - December 6
November 25-27 (excluding holidays)
December 9 - December 13
*During the above dates, streets will be done only once per week.
Guidelines for collection:
Before and after these dates, place your leaves in a biodegradable bag or 35 gallon container with no liner for assigned Wednesday pickup. (See Yard Debris and Bulk collection.) Once the annual collection is complete, there will be no limit on contained leaves that are set out for Wednesday pickup through December 30, 2019. Leaves not properly placed for pickup will be subject to a violation fee. Citizens can also bring bagged leaves to the Recycling Convenience Center during operating hours.
If you have any questions, you can call Public Works at 540-434-5928.
In our last post we discussed how to figure out how much home you can afford. The next question to answer is, what will your money buy you? That all depends on the market that you’re in. The same amount of money may buy you a mansion in a rural area and a small apartment in an urban center.
Buyer’s Market vs. Seller’s Market
In addition to the location you’re looking in, the state of the market at the time you’re buying will also help to determine how far your money will go. Whether you’re in a buyer’s market, a seller’s market, or a neutral market will affect how far each dollar stretches. In a buyer’s market, there’s more inventory on the market than there are people looking to buy homes, pushing prices down. Your money will go further and you’ll have more options to choose from. In a seller’s market, there’s less inventory on the market than there are people who want to buy homes and the homes on the market can demand a higher price, squeezing your budget. In a seller’s market you may have to make a few different offers on homes before you can find the right fit. A buyer’s market is an easier deal.
The Local Harrisonburg and Rockingham Market
Take a look here to find detailed analysis of the local market, and enter your email below to subscribe to monthly market reports.
No matter the market conditions, there are always opportunities. Sometimes opportunities require the house to be renovated. There are loans to help with those costs. This can require a significant down payment but not always.
There are also areas where your dollar can stretch a little further. It just depends on what you are looking for. Some of these areas include Broadway/Timberville, Grottoes, Weyers Cave (Augusta), Massanutten, and Elkton.
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.
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/
Starting on September 15th, Harrisonburg will require residents to acquire a permit 15 days in advance for any gatherings held outside with 100 or more attendants.
According to the City's website: "To register a smaller social gathering of less than 100 people, contact the non-emergency number at 540-434-4436. If complaints are received, the registrant will receive one warning and any additional complaints will result in officers responding."
For other noise complaints, here are the cities guidlines:
"Large party nuisance - the creation of plainly audible sound that emanates from a gathering of 10 or more people, where the gathering is not completely contained within a structure and is audible across a property line, through partitions, or at a distance of 100 feet.
This ordinance can be enforced during the day and night."
For more information on Noise ordinances, see the city's website.
As a frequent commuter on Reservoir, I welcome the news of Reservoir St getting some updates. The city plans on updating Reservoir St from the county line all the way to University Boulevard. A&J Development and Excavating won the project for $10,139,986.49. The project should begin soon and be completed by December 2017.
Phase 1 will begin between University Blvd and Neff Ave. The phase will widen the roadway into 5 lanes including a center turning lane.
From Neff to the County Line
After phase 1, the city will continue to work on Reservoir St from Neff to the county line. This stretch will have 4 lanes and a center median and turning lanes.
For more information, please visit the city website.
When I lived in Germany, I always heard that you could buy a castle for 1 Euro. The stipulation would be that you had to restore the castle. I always thought this was a clever way for not letting these structures go to waste.
In a similar vein, Harrisonburg city is auctioning off a building that is starting at $5. However, if you are the lucky winner, you will need to remove the building from the premise.
Here are the details from the city:
"Post & beam building with metal roof and siding build on concrete slab. 9,600 SF constructed in 2000.
This sale is for the structure only and the buyer is solely responsible for dismantling the existing structure. The City will not provide any assistance with the removal. Once the dismantling process is started the buyer is responsible for diligently working to expedite the removal of the structure.
The building must be removed by July 1, 2016.
Access hours are 7:30 am - 4:30 pm Mon-Fri, however if needed the City will work with the awarded bidder to accommodate their removal schedule in order to speed up the removal process.
The building will be completely cleaned out by the time the building is ready to be removed. Waste oil burner shown is not included in the sale. (Pictures still show some contents).
Building dimensions are approximately 180 x 50. Roof is a 6.5 pitch.
Site visits will be allowed during working hours listed above. Call Charlie Honaker at 540-434-5928.
Insurance will be required for the awarded bidder. Requirements are attached.
City of Harrisonburg employees are limited to a max bid amount of $500.
Source, pictures and more informtaion:
Living Close To Downtown
There has been a lot of talk of the subdivision Newtown. Since downtown Harrisonburg has become a lot more popular, affordable housing in proximity is more in demand.
Lets explore some statistics:
Newtown Sales are Increasing
From this data, we can see that overall, the number o f house sales have risen. We'll want to keep an eye on sales in the next few years to determine if 2013 and 2014 were abnormal years or the start of a new trend.
It's very important to keep in mind that Newtown isn't a very large neighborhood. Furthermore, the number of sales we are seeing don't create a very large sample size. With a smaller sample size, the data can seem more dramatic. For example, if I were to tell you that there were 5 more sales in 2014 than 2015, it wouldn't seem that substantial.
Netown Sales Prices Trending Downward?
According to this data, it appears that the price of housing has trended downward. You may be wondering how this makes sense since I originally said that Newtown seems to be on the rise.
To answer this, there are two main factors at play. First of all, we are looking at median sales data. With a small sample size we may not get the best pulse of the market due to the second factor: people are buying cheap houses to renovate.
That brings me to the biggest point, having a lot of renovation in your area is an excellent indicator that the neighborhood is on the rise. From going through the neighborhood on a regular basis for the past few years, I have noticed that there are usually around 4 houses being renovated at a given time.
In conclusion, I would predict that we will continue to see cheaper houses being renovated for some time to come. We will need to continue to keep an eye on the statistics but also a feel for the neighborhood.