There’s something new brewing in downtown Harrisonburg – it’s in the Ice House building, which is slowly developing from an old building into a mecca of small shops and residences. JMU alum Chance Ebersold is perking up the local coffee scene with his new shop, Black Sheep Coffee.
As a resident of Harrisonburg since 1998, Ebersold knew something was missing.
“Unfortunately, there are a few areas that Harrisonburg is behind on,” he said. “Coffee was one, and the majority of people in this town agree. I just figured I would try to do coffee and do it right.”
After brainstorming with his wife, who owns the Yellow Button clothing boutique right next door to Black Sheep, Ebersold decided to use a space in the Ice House to infuse Harrisonburg with a new take on an old classic.
“We were talking to the developers, saying it would be a really cool spot,” he said.
And after finding out nobody else was going to do it, “we decided we were going to open up a coffee shop.”
Not wanting to jump in too quickly, Ebersold said that Black Sheep would start small and retain simplicity and quality with its products, eventually working toward a bigger menu.
Aside from coffee, “we’re going to concentrate on baked goods for right now, doing everything in house, making them, doing them right, making sure people are happy with that and slowly expand,” he said. “We’re just going to develop it over time based on what our customers want and request, and with what we can handle.”
Black Sheep plans to stand out among competition through quality with its products and services.
“That is our main goal – to have the best quality that we can,” Ebersold said. “We’re going to be using different roasters, giving people variety that they don’t necessarily get with Starbucks and Greenberry’s.”
Black Sheep will be primarily using Red Rooster roasting out of Floyd, Va., but they also have the option of bringing in different roasters on occasion. They are currently offering Tandem Coffee Roasters.
“People like variety, they don’t like having the same stuff all the time,” Ebersold said.
Greenberry’s owner and manager Carolyn Burkholder says competition is important in lieu of the new rivalry.
“What we hope to do very well is an excellent product, excellent atmosphere, excellent customer service,” Burkholder said. “As long as we are doing our best at those items, I think that we will be fine.”
For Burkholder, the mission is simple.
“People come where they feel welcome, and that’s always our goal.”
Ebersold is hoping to welcome a variety of customers with his new shop and unique location.
“I’m hoping for a good mix, and so far over the last few days, it has been,” he said. “I’ve actually been really pleased.”
Over at Greenberry’s, Burkholder isn’t too concerned with location affecting competition.
“They’ll get customers that we won’t normally get,” she said. “People are free to get coffee wherever they want to. So, we always strive to do the very best at what we have.”
Quality is key. Ebersold agrees.
“We’re focusing on tasting it, making sure everything is good. Making sure everything is up to our standards so that people can enjoy it, and come back, and be very satisfied,” he said.
Black Sheep barista Christian Van Os Keuls enjoys the small-scale feel of the new shop, and the ability to be creative while learning new skills in a unique atmosphere. Van Os Keuls, a senior graphic design major at JMU, was initially attracted to Black Sheep because of the logo. He later discovered more about the details of coffee making.
“I think coffee is an interesting art form and serving people is really fun,” he said. “Frothing the milk just right – it’s hit or miss every time. There’s more to it than I thought.”
With its cozy atmosphere and unique attitude towards coffee, Black Sheep embodies and enhances the culture of Harrisonburg in more ways than one.
And for Ebersold, the true measure of success is clear. He loves what he’s doing and wants to make a mark on the coffee scene in Harrisonburg.
“I hope to allow other people to enjoy it.”