June 15, 2020 ~
In 2017, when I walked into the little chapel, formerly St. John’s United Methodist Church, I realized something fantastic was about to happen. While I lived in Boone, North Carolina, I frequented a place downtown called, Farm Café. You could volunteer there for a meal, they had a farm where they grew their own food, and no matter what day I was in there I met someone I would have never met in the “real” world. There seemed to be a sense of belonging in that little café and when it was time for me to return to West Virginia, I wanted to take a piece of that with me. My son, Nick, had been in the food industry since he was 18 years old and I also wanted to give him a place to land. Nick has always learned lessons from life the hard way and I knew he was on the brink of maturing so I wanted to give him a place he could get his sea legs and also learn to believe in himself. I also needed his help. I needed someone I could trust to love the café as much as I did. I asked if he wanted to build something amazing with me and he accepted the offer. For 9 months, we worked every day to transform the church full of pews, red carpet, and pulpits into Café Appalachia. We didn’t have any money at the time and so all I could afford to pay him for his help was $100/week. Still, he agreed to help me.
Every day we showed up, sweat, argued, collaborated, and diligently brought together the vision in my head. We pulled from muses such as Farm Café, the Cathedral in Fayetteville, and every cool little café I’ve ever patronized in every city I’ve ever visited. On July 23, 2018 we opened our doors and our hearts to our community. Fast forward to March, 2020 and COVID 19 tore into our lives. To a lot of people, it was a curse. It was (is) a time of uncertainty and scarcity leaving people more fearful and opposed than I’ve ever seen before. But at Café Appalachia, I saw beauty in the transformation. Although we had to close our doors for the time being and our staff, Hollie, and I didn’t know what would become of us…I never feared for I knew this was the time when everyone would break free. We had all become dependent on each other, afraid to make change. The girls felt a sense of loyalty to us for our help and Nick was afraid to spread his wings and go out on his own. COVID 19 gave us all the break we needed to spend time with ourselves and to truly decide which direction we wanted to forge into for the future. Autumn and Gina became Peer Recovery Support Specialist and are now out in the community helping others who are trying to recover from Substance Use Disorder. I am beyond proud to announce that Nick, too, found his way. He will no longer be with us at the Café because he has greater things to do with the life experiences and gifts he possesses inside of him. Nick has always been a helper. His inherent gifts are kindness, bravery, and keeping a calm head in the midst of panic. When someone is in danger, Nick runs towards the danger to help them, not away from it. In August, he will take the physical exam to become a fire fighter for the City of South Charleston, which has been a dream of his for a very long time. We will miss his impeccable customer service and willingness to make our customers first priority but life is about change and change is good!
We will miss all of the friendly faces we have grown so accustomed to seeing when we walk into Café Appalachia but their time there is done. The Café is not a final resting place, it is a place where lessons are learned, families are formed, help is given, and hope is received. I’m not sad at the changes, I’m excited for them because that means what we are doing…our work we’ve committed our lives to do…it is working. So, it is with a full heart that I release my first born into his OWN life, his OWN destiny, his OWN life’s work. Thank you, Nick, for all that you’ve done to help build Café Appalachia and welcome to Kate Rainey and the new faces you will soon meet and grow to love as they draw upon the healing power of Café Appalachia.