FOOD- THE DISH- ABC at Greenberry's: Alcohol on tap at Coffee 'empire'?

"Especially when I'm here studying late at night," says regular Greenberry's customer Kate Gregg, "a glass of wine would be great."

The windows of Greenberry's are often filled with newspapers on the bar inside, but a jittery customer noticed another kind of paper in the window last week: an ABC notice announcing the coffee shop's bid for a beer and wine license. For the legions of Greenberry's loyal customers– who can now find the chain's goodies at 15 locations from North Carolina to New Jersey– the news could come as a fright. Is the coffee being left behind in favor of full service food and beverages?

"Not at all," promises Greenberry's owner, Sean Simmons, who with his wife, Roxanne, opened the flagship store at Barracks Road 16 years ago and has quietly built a coffee empire– so quietly that the Washington Post failed to mention the store in its recent round-up of local coffee emporia.

And by Charlottesville's standards, Greenberry's is an empire. In addition to the numerous franchises, the company roasts its own beans– more than 100,000 pounds per year at a facility up 29N near the airport– and supplies coffee to many restaurants and hotels.

But that's still not enough, says Simmons, who explains, "You have to stay innovative to stay ahead."

The wine and beer license is part of Simmons' vision for the future of Greenberry's. But serving alcohol, he says, is secondary to his primary vision: adding healthy food choices to the menus in all the stores. He's hired an executive chef, he says, and in the next week customers can savor the first of his offerings: organic, steel-cut oatmeal. Soon organic soups will be on the menu.

"We will continue to roll out more breakfast and lunch products," Simmons says, "but we'll never, ever bastardize the coffee store atmosphere, which is what we are."

As for the alcohol option, Simmons says he hasn't decided when– or if– to add wines and microbrews to the menu at Barracks Road. He's considering customer demand and looking for ways to build his slower evening business, when one person might want a latte while her date might prefer a glass of Chardonnay.

Sitting outside Greenberry's last week, regular customer Kate Gregg– a first year UVA law student– said she was delighted by the prospect.

"Especially when I'm here studying late at night," she says, "a glass of wine would be great."

There's one potential stumbling block Simmons will need to "step" over before he considers making Greenberry's a combo coffee/winebar. Or maybe 12 blocks to step over. He acknowledges that some of Greenberry's current evening customers are members of Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and he says those recovering regulars will play a role in his decision.

"I'm taking that seriously," he says. "We may introduce wine and beer in other stores but not in this one."

That's not to say Charlottesville won't have a Greenberry's with wine and beer, however. In fact, in news that's even bigger than the ABC license, Simmons says he's hoping to have a second– and much larger– Greenberry's location somewhere in the downtown area by early 2009.

"We're looking for something close to 3,000 square feet to enhance our presence," he says.

Greenberry's lovers won't wine about that!

–reporting by Courteney Stuart

Uncovering The Bean

If you work for SNL Financial, you probably don't need us to tell you about The Bean, a small coffee shop tucked away in the corner of the company near the east end of the Downtown Mall. It's been a private coffee shop of sorts for SNL employees and folks in nearby office buildings. But this is for the rest of you Downtown coffee lovers.

In January, 20-year old Tamra Fisher quietly took over the shop from a previous owner, and she's been serving up Shenandoah Joe's coffee, sandwiches, bagels, fresh fruit, and mini pizzas ever since.

"My Dad saw in the paper that it was for sale," she says, "and so we just jumped right in."

So far, Fisher says, things have been going well. "Haven't had any complaints yet," she laughs. Of course, most of her business comes from SNL, but she says that folks from the nearby area have begun to drift over, including a few coffee-loving cops from the station across the street.

Fisher, too, loves a good cup of coffee.

"At first, I was afraid of being around all this coffee," she says, "but I'm containing myself."

Does the Post love us or what?

The Washington Post is at it again– praising the Charlottesville food scene. Just a week after Post writer Roger Piantadosi facetiously claimed that we had more restaurants per capita than France and called us "insanely committed foodies," Post writer Jane Black gushes about our inventive chefs, committed local food buyers, and the wide variety of cuisines WHEN?. 

However, while praising us, she does manage to put a small dent in her street cred when she writes"...the food here is far better than it should be in a place with about 40,000 year-round residents and 20,000 broke college kids." 

Broke UVA students? We imagine that had a few Post-reading locals guffawing. She also leaves out Orzo among restaurants on West Main. But she redeems herself somewhat by calling Mas "without a doubt my favorite Charlottesville restaurant."

Mas, Bang, Kate Collier of Feast!, Albemarle Baking Company, Ten, and Rev Soup are all included in a nifty slide show.

 Overall, Black doesn't miss too much in this food tour, and her final words are enough to make us blush:

"Across the board, Charlottesville's food scene is inventive, diverse and brimming with talent. It's enough to give Monticello a run for its money."

All this food news was first reported online. Check it out at