The Crossroads Coffee House made my urban soul sing when it came to town this spring. (Yes, I have an urban soul. It shares space and fuels a lot of creative tension with my rural soul. Welcome to my world.) Matt and Brittney spent a year transforming an old bank building at the main intersection of Onley, Virginia into a space worthy of the finest college towns and urban renaissance sites in the country. I’ve become a regular.
It’s got the bared brick walls and steaming cafe apparatus. Natural light pours through the old windows. Wooden stairs lead to an upstairs sitting area overlooking the floor below. The bank vault has been transformed into a lending library. Blown-up photos of Onley’s past dot the walls. A horseshoe bar surrounds the service area, which is where you’ll find me. At the far end against the wall, probably with a laptop in front of me.
Let’s not curse the place by calling it hipster. ‘Hipster’ carries with it the baggage of the cultural moment. This is not Brooklyn or Asheville in their grand bubbles of pretension. Though, as I sit with my $3 Americano, I get the irony. The cheaper brew at the Club Car Cafe is nearly as good. But what makes Urban Soul sing is not the accoutrements of the settled Information Age economy.
It’s the space.
The Crossroads has become just that—an intersection where new segments of the community meet. Of course, the ‘come heres’ like me like it. It reminds us of former lives in places where the search for wifi was not a part of your daily calculations. (Seaside north of Wachapreague is pretty good. Good luck on the bayside. If you get stuck down to Hacks Neck you might as well put your phone away.)
Other folks have found their way to The Crossroads, too, though. Watermen, tourists, construction workers, gadflies, and nurses. And they will make of the place something altogether new.
It helps that the owners are decidedly local with a deep entrepreneurial heart. They are idealistic, hard-working, and committed. You can tell they’ve put their whole selves into this project. And they care about historic buildings that connect us to our past.
I dream about what this could mean for our small towns. My old haunt was a small coffee house down the road named The Yellow Duck. We dreamed there, too, about how to build community on the rural Eastern Shore. Elvin, the co-owner, said, “If we could just build ten Yellow Ducks up and down the Shore, we’d be a long way there.”
There’s a lot of conversation in church circles these days about third spaces—places that are not private, like homes, or overtly ecclesial, like churches. The third spaces don’t carry the weight of expectations that those other spaces do. So, people are freer to bring their selves to the conversation and potentially more open about sharing their convictions with others.
I bring conversations and meetings to The Crossroads these days. I know the odds are stacked against businesses like this. There are dark voices on the Shore that haunt every new venture—“It’ll never work here.”
But I’m one of those rare folks who came to the Shore because of its opportunities. And the main opportunity was to experience and build community in deeper ways than I had. To go to a place where the church was still experienced as a vital part of that community. To be shaped by a landscape that I still call the edge of the world and the verge of heaven.
We need spaces to share those dreams. The Crossroads is one of them.