- Associated Press - Friday, April 27, 2018

THROCKMORTON, Texas (AP) - Give it enough time and a building can turn a character actor. As the years pass, each new owner’s production clothes the space with a new role in the community.

The Abilene Reporter-News reports built in the late 1920s or early ‘30s, the player at 131 N. Minter Ave. in Throckmorton seems to be starring in a promising new release.

“It used to be a pharmacy, it’s been an office building, a haircut place,” explained Molly Bellah. “It’s been a little bit of everything.”

She and her sister-in-law Michelle Bellah opened the town’s first modern coffee shop last fall. The twist? They don’t charge their customers.

But don’t expect to drop in any old time, Stomping Grounds Coffee & Tea Co. keeps hours based upon their clientele.

“We named it that because we wanted it to be a place for the youth to hang out, because there’s nowhere for them to go,” Michelle said. “It’s a nonprofit, volunteer-staffed, donation-only coffee shop.”

Say, what? How’s that work?

“Most people actually pay more than our suggested donation,” Michelle explained. “So, we easily cover our cost and we give back by buying students drinks, or for people who come in.”

They keep a pay-it-forward chalkboard on the wall divided into nine squares, tic-tac-toe style. In one square was written, “Someone wearing a T” for Texas Tech. In another, “Mom with a baby.”

The square with “A THS Student” had a check through it already. Let’s hope that kid didn’t go for the double-espresso.

The far-right corner read, “Newsman from Abilene Reporter-News.” The reporter claimed his drink, a chocolate mojito-mint coffee that he dubbed the Cuban Cookie, and paid it forward with $5 bucks for the next customer.

Both women are mothers in their early 30s, neither said they’d ever worked in a coffee shop before. But Michelle comes well-trained in the food service industry growing.

As a Panther Creek Independent School District student in Coleman County, she was one of many high schoolers employed by Lynn Owens at Big O’s Restaurant in Valera. Owens recently marked 25 years.

The sisters coordinate a crew of volunteers to assist. Officially they are open 7-10 a.m. each Friday. But if there’s a volunteer available, the shop will open.

“I love it,” Molly said “You don’t really feel like you’re working. It’s more fun and you get to talk to everybody.”

Nearby, Becky Gage was sitting with Renee Harris, talking and sipping their drinks.

“I bake anything they need here,” Gage said.

“And they’re the best. We’re going to miss her cinnamon rolls,” Harris chimed.

Gage and her husband, Jay, the pastor at First United Methodist Church, are moving to the Panhandle later this year. He earlier was quizzing their daughter Brylie for a science test.

“It’s a special place, and it was needed for a long time,” his wife said of Stomping Grounds. “Because you’ve got young and you’ve got old, and sometimes it stays that way. But this is a place where you can cross those borders easily, in a non-threatening way.”

The business operates under the umbrella of Imprint Ministries, which also owns the building. They financed the shop through donations from FUMC a grant from InterBank and from individuals.

“The Woodson ag class built the tables for us, and another guy in town, Byron Gray, built the bar with wood flooring from the old courthouse,” Michelle said. “It just kind of came together.”

On a recent Friday morning, a mix of young and old started trickling through the front door as the sun rose across the street. Molly, Michelle and another volunteer made drinks and greeted customers, shielding their eyes as the morning light dramatically slid through the room.

Young children with hot chocolates and muffins sat at a play table near the room’s storefront window, drawing in coloring books and chattering away. Several climbed into the window to sprawl in the sun, or jumped down to frolic around the room.

“It’s really a youth outreach more than anything,” Michelle said. “There’s nowhere for them. They hang out at a vacant lot downtown, or they stay home.”

It’s a familiar story, they said dropping enrollment school hit Throckmorton hard. Retirees love the area, but families with young children have been looking elsewhere.

“We’re kind of 30 miles from nowhere, so we don’t have a lot of transfers,” Michelle said, adding its mostly townspeople who send their kids to school there.

“There are eight kids in first grade; there’s I think, six in kindergarten, and we’re graduating nine. Throckmorton used to be 20-30 (students).”

But good things are happening. The school has a plan to shape itself into the same collegiate, dual-credit mold as Roscoe ISD, and a new school superintendent arrives in June. The shop holds a study hall Thursday nights so students can use their Wi-Fi.

“The few of us that are here, this coffee shop has enabled us to band together, to get to know and support each other,” she continued. “A lot of the community has worked together to get this collegiate-thing going.”

Stomping Grounds might be coming to your town, too. Michelle’s sister Samantha Pipes is trying to open one in Rotan.

“It’s just nice to have this in our little town, to come and get fancy coffee and visit with everybody,” Harris said. “And it’s good for our youth, too. They have a place now that’s kind of fun, it’s got that Starbucks-feel for them. It’s nice for a little town to have that.”

Not everyone comes down for coffee, of course. Maybe some grumble at the change, but people grumble about the weather, too. That doesn’t stop it from coming.

“It’s a good place to raise a family, here. We are content,” Michelle said.

“We’re just trying to improve it,” Molly finished.


Information from: Abilene Reporter-News, http://www.reporternews.com

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide