Jackie Lutton, Michele Patterson, and Elisa Martin joke with Cleveland Browns fan Jay Cargnel as he places an order at the Pathway Café. September 9, 2019, marks the one-year anniversary of the Chippewa Campus coffee shop. Click on the image to scroll through more photos.
We couldn’t help but notice the colors.
A robust, dark brown with a hint of orange.
This was a coffee shop, after all. And it was the Sunday after Labor Day, so thoughts of fall — and all that comes with it — were in the air. So it wasn’t surprising that Jay Cargnel was the reluctant center of attention as he waited for his order at the Pathway Café.
“I get harassed every time I wear this jersey,” he said, laughing.
He turned around and pointed to the name stitched on the back.
Yep. THAT Myles Garrett, the defensive end for the Cleveland Browns. And Jay was rocking his brown-and-orange jersey proudly — even though he was surrounded by fans of the black and gold.
“I guess they’ll serve anyone here,” cracked Jim O’Roark, who also was placing an order.
QUITE A YEAR
Jay was among the dozen or so people in line at the Pathway Café. The former Marine from East Liverpool, Ohio — and ardent Cleveland Browns fan — has been coming to the 10:45am Sunday service for just over a month. Nevertheless, he and his wife of eight years, Chelsea, already have staked out their “usual” — a large iced coffee for him and a large ice tea with peach flavor for her.
The line was long but it moved briskly as a crew of eight worked behind the counter alongside Pathway Café director Elisa Martin. Today marks the café’s one-year anniversary and Elisa couldn’t be more pleased with how the past 12 months have gone.
“I had no idea what to expect since we had never done something like this,” she admitted. “But whatever my expectations were, they’ve been surpassed.”
Elisa and her team of more than 50 volunteers serve the Pathway family each Sunday morning and Thursday night before and during church services. Despite the variety of flavored choices elegantly scrolled on the chalkboards behind her, Elisa said the top seller remains black coffee.
“It’s amazing how many people enjoy a simple cup of black coffee.”
Ryan Gouldsbarry is among them, and as he reached the front of the line, he ordered his “usual.”
While pulling out his wallet, he couldn’t help but overhear the conversation Elisa was having with a visitor.
“I know this might sound awful …,” Elisa said, her voice trailing off.
Ryan smiled and finished her sentence.
“You remember people by what they drink and not their names.”
Elisa laughed as she handed him the steaming hot cup.
Elisa and her team deserve a little grace in that area since thousands of customers have visited the café since it opened on September 9, 2018. She estimated more than 4,000 cups of coffee have been sold. And that’s not counting all the other drinks the café offers.
She credits her “wonderful” baristas for the continued surge in sales.
The roster includes:
•Sam Van Nest
Lexie McGee, a senior at Blackhawk High, is now in training to become one.
“We have so many different drinks to make, so we always have two baristas on duty,” Elisa pointed out.
She mentioned that her volunteers don’t accept tips. Instead, there’s a “pay-it-forward” jar on the counter.
“If we see a new family visiting or someone digging for change, we’ll use that fund to purchase their order.”
She has been blown away by the generosity of Pathway attenders. She explained that some people have bought a cup of coffee and paid with a $20 bill. They’ve told Elisa to bless other customers with the remaining money.
“We’ve even had some people pay for a family’s dinners on a Thursday. That’s so cool. It’s been super fun to see.”
A BRIGHT FUTURE
While coffee and the café’s delightful scones are the staples on Sunday mornings, dinners are a big hit before the Thursday evening service. Families no longer have to rush home from school and sports activities to down a quick bite before attending the service. They can now drive straight to the church and enjoy a relaxing meal in the café.
“We had our biggest Thursday night yet over Labor Day Weekend,” Elisa said, beaming. “More than 100 dinners were sold. That evening’s entrée was served by the Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe, which rotates along with four other businesses owned by Pathway attenders.
As successful as the first year has been, Jackie predicts an even brighter future. And she knows a little something about the business. Jackie managed coffee shops at the Pittsburgh International Airport for 13 years.
“We’re excited for what’s ahead,” she noted. “We going to get even busier this Thursday.”
Jackie was referring to the upcoming convergence of Awana, Ignite, Crosstown and Unlimited on Thursday nights.
Elisa also believes two fall-themed drinks will make customers very happy — caramel apple cider and a homemade pumpkin spice latté, “made with real pumpkins and maple syrup.”
The latter drink is a robust, dark brown with a hint of orange.
Perhaps a little more appealing than a jersey from the team in Cleveland.
And certainly a lot more tasteful.