Tuesday, November 17, 2009

O2 Coffee House and Cabaret

by Anna Williams
Web Editor

As I walk down N. Market Street in downtown Waverly, Ohio on a brisk November afternoon, I’m overcome by nostalgia. I’ve never been here before, never even seen a place like this, but somehow I can’t help but imagine this small town as it had been in its heyday.

Advertisements painted on brick buildings are chipped from decades of weathering. A few neon signs light up the otherwise dim stretch of establishments. Above the door of the Emmitt House Restaurant, a well-known historical landmark in Ohio, hangs a sign that it has closed. Temporarily, I soon learn, but I immediately get the sense that this town is going through some economic hardship, like most of Southeast Ohio.

I continue down the street a sign catches my attention. It reads “O2 Coffee House and Cabaret.” Intrigued, I learn more.

O2 Coffee House opened in June of 2009 and despite the surrounding economy, it has thrived since day one. This gourmet coffee shop is a first for Waverly, offering espresso, gourmet coffee, deli sandwiches, soups, and it’s most popular item, Crispie Crème donuts. Crispie Crème is a local bakery out of Portsmouth, Ohio and delivers fresh dozens to O2 daily. You name it, they have it. Cinnamon rolls to the traditional glazed donut, customers order them all. The best part, they’re just 80 cents a piece.

The coffee and espresso are also from a local company called Silver Bridge Coffee out of Gallipolis, Ohio. Blends brewed fresh throughout the day include Jamaican Me Crazy, Sumatra, Colombian, Hazelnut, and a variety of flavored coffee. Co-owner Jennifer Farmer suggests trying the espresso; “They say it’s the strongest in town.” It’s also one of their best sellers.

“Before us, Tim Hortons was the closest thing to gourmet coffee in Waverly,” says Farmer. She and her friend and co-owner Ashley Henson originally opened O2 Coffee House and Cabaret serving only donuts and coffee, but expanded their menu due to demand. It is easy to see why this place rarely experiences slow days.

Located at 115 N. Market Street, the building has previously housed a bank, a post office, a gyro shop, and a Christian bookstore. And it is hard to forget this past, considering a pivotal part of the café is located inside the building’s old safe, built in 1951 by Waverly State Bank.

Inside, the walls are now painted black and covered with hundreds of silver signatures from visitors. One clever scribble reads, The safest place we’ve ever been! After just reading a few, you get the sense that this town is truly grateful for the atmosphere this place provides. Two comfy chairs, a pub table with stools and a dining table are cozily arranged inside the safe against the black walls.

Art hangs from the main room’s cream-colored walls, which feature a different local artist every month. Not one of the couches, lamps or tables is the same. But the mismatched-ness just adds to the comfortable atmosphere that channels the jazzy 1920s.

At least five times a week around lunchtime, O2 serves as a venue for local and regional musicians.

The meaning behind the name O2 Coffee House and Cabaret has much to do with this inviting and pleasant atmosphere. O2, being the elemental symbol for oxygen, functions as a metaphor. Farmer says that we need oxygen to live, and similarly, we need the Holy Spirit to live; “It’s just there and you don’t have to force people to breathe it.” She admits that the original purpose of the coffee shop wasn’t about the coffee at all, but rather to serve as a non-threatening place for people to go that’s not a church or a bar, but an in-between of them both.

Comfy and affordable, the cafe attracts both young and old from around the region. Its hours are 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Stop in for a cup of hot coffee, freshly made chowder, or just to chat with one of the owners. Whatever brings you here, it’s likely to make you want to come back.

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