By Randy Arrington
LURAY, May 10 — On Friday, local officials gathered near the Main Street Bridge to celebrate the seventh ribbon cutting in Downtown Luray in the last two months.
“Can you feel it?” Jay Dedman asked the crowd. “I think Downtown is changing.”
When Dedman and Ryanne Hodson first moved to Luray in 2008, they wanted to see a coffee shop open up downtown, but “it never happened.” So, they waited for a building to go on the market “at a reasonable price.”
“Some people are starting to let go of their buildings,” Dedman said, noting a half dozen or more real estate transactions along Main Street in recent years. When Hawkbill Bicycles closed and the building adjacent to the Main Street Bridge went up for sale, they took the opportunity to approach two James Madison University graduates about expanding their coffee shop in Harrisonburg.
In 2017, Phil Duntemann (JMU ’12) and Jill McMullan (JMU ’15) partnered to open a small espresso bar in the Friendly City, where both had attended college. Phil, who’s originally from Chesapeake, said it wasn’t long after that they met Jay and Ryanne — who, “talked my ear off.”
“They wanted a cafe in Luray, and it evolved into this,” Phil said.
More than two years of discussions lead to Friday’s grand opening and ribbon cutting at the second location of Broad Porch Coffee Co. at 20 West Main St. in Downtown Luray. The modern look at the coffee shop offers both indoor dining, as well as outdoor seating overlooking the Hawksbill Creek and the town’s greenway trail.
“What an amazing thing you’ve done here with the renovations both inside and out,” Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said. “It goes to what we’ve all been working toward…to have a vibrant, active downtown. It’s a wonderful time for Luray. Things are really going well.”
The town’s newest coffee shop roasts all its own coffee in a nearby building Dedman bought behind the Page Theater. Broad Porch offers a wide range of coffee options, 10 different types of coffee beans for sale, multiple teas, several cold drinks offerings, fresh pastries and “morning food” options, such as a “Breakfast Biscuit Sammy” or “Breakfast Cake.”
“The town has been so inviting,” Phil said on Friday.
“We love [Luray],” added McMullan, who grew up in Harrisonburg. “It’s definitely a different vibe for sure, but it’s a really cute community. In Harrisonburg, half the city is the university, so you don’t get to see the community itself as much.”
With big box stores pulling traffic away from small downtowns all across the country for decades, Dedman says the current revitalization driven by private investment in Downtown Luray is exciting to see.
“The service industry is the way to compete with the Walmarts,” Dedman said. “We think there needs to be a place for people to come and gather.”
“We have the fastest internet on Main Street,” added Hodson, who is also the vice president of the Luray Downtown Initiative’s board of directors. “We installed fiber to the building, so people can come and bring their laptops.”
The downtown space has already provided an environment equally welcoming among businessmen and high school students looking to take advantage of free wireless internet, while also enjoying a fresh cup of java or a buttermilk biscuit. However, the owners are quick to point out that Broad Porch Coffee Co. is a coffeehouse that serves food, rather than “a diner that serves coffee.”
As a small business owner, Dedman told local officials on Friday that “to not have people in our way, is so important” in terms of local government involvement. He credited several local agencies with helping them along the way.
“We’re getting a lot of compliments and that’s great, but it doesn’t pay the bills,” Dedman said to a round of smiles and giggles. “We expect all of you to come and get some coffee.
“We wanted this and it never came, so now here it is,” Dedman said. “Our town is blooming. I think we’re in a really good place. There’s a new feeling in Downtown. Let’s keep this going.”
“What we need is more imagination.”
Broad Porch Coffee Co., at 20 West Main St., can be rented out for special events and is open DAILY in Downtown LURAY, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays.
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