Chance and Miranda Ebersold are the embodiment of the saying “like two peas in a pod”: they’re married and own side-by-side businesses in downtown Harrisonburg.
Chance owns Black Sheep Coffee and Miranda owns The Yellow Button, a clothing store.
When Miranda’s store took its space in The Ice House, the space next door was up for grabs as well. Chance was working as a general manager for Buffalo Wild Wings when he met Miranda, then a bartender, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Over the next six months, Chance returned to the area a few times and the pair eventually had their first date. Within a few months of their first date, Miranda was living in Harrisonburg.
Miranda thought, “‘This is silly, I should just get a bartending job here’ and I got the job at The Dodger … I was actually working at BCBG … which was a two-hour drive from here and I did that for a while.”
Miranda worked both jobs for a time before deciding that “I was gonna be all in and move here for real and actually move my things here and only work in Harrisonburg and that was that.”
It took Miranda a while to recognize how much she really liked Chance.
“It’s funny because I didn’t realize that I kept talking about him until my mom brought it up,” Miranda says.
Her interest in Chance was obvious to her coworkers at the bar, too.
“He said, ‘I could practically see heart bubbles floating above your head while you were talking to him,’” Miranda says, laughing.
The Ebersolds joke about this now because Miranda would lean over the bar and talk to Chance with a lovestruck gaze.
Chance went to the bar that night because he wanted to “have a beer in peace” after getting off work.
“She asked me what I was doing there and it was a bar I didn’t normally go to ’cause it was between where I was working and my home and I went there so that I wouldn’t run into anybody that I knew, so that I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody and have a beer in peace after getting off of work before going home,” Chance says. “She just sat there and kept talking to me and talking to me. She wouldn’t let me just sit there in peace.”
Miranda’s knack for conversation has become a joke among the Ebersolds. Chance even incorporated it into his wedding vows by joking “I remember when I met you and I thought: ‘Man, she talks a lot.’”
“I think that having differences definitely has drawn us to each other and why we’ve continued to be together for so long,” Miranda says.
They now have two kids: Graham, 3, and Poppy, 9 months.
Graham and Poppy are well known to the regular customers of the shops and can occasionally be spotted adorning Black Sheep Coffee T-shirts.
Graham can also be seen running around Black Sheep playing his kazoo going, “Daddy! Daddy!”
One of Graham’s favorite activities is to grab some milk and a cookie from Black Sheep Coffee and sit on the loading dock with one of his parents.
“He thinks he’s really cool ’cause he goes out the back door,” Miranda says with a teasing tone.
“And he can look at the trains,” Chance adds.
Poppy was in The Yellow Button almost every day with Miranda until she started daycare at around four months old.
When Black Sheep Coffee first opened in 2015 Graham had been walking for about a month or two, so Chance’s customers have seen him grow up.
“Graham loved coming down here when this was all being built,” Miranda says. “Because he, like, is such a boy in that he loves trains, construction equipment and he, like, had a blast.”
Miranda says juggling two businesses and two kids is difficult, but it has its perks.
“There’s a lot of benefits to kind of being our own bosses and not having to be both of us at work at 9 a.m. If one of the kids are sick, it’s pretty easy for one of us. Graham had the stomach flu the other week and Chance was able to [help],” Miranda says.
On the flip side, it’s difficult for the Ebersolds to truly get away from their jobs, whether it be at home or on vacation.
Miranda yearns for at least an hour every night where she can be unplugged from her cellphone. She contrasts her job to a 9-to-5 job, where one can “come home and you’re just with your kids and that’s that.”
Employees might text her questions regarding merchandise and tags.
The Ebersolds work during the week so they can enjoy time with their kids on the weekends.
“We try to be here and get everything that we need to do done during the week, so that we can go to birthday parties and go to the children’s museum and go do fun stuff with them on the weekends,” Miranda says.
Graham typically accompanies Chance on walks to the bank on the weekends, to get change for the cash drawers and take out deposits.
Luckily, Miranda doesn’t have to be at The Yellow Button until it opens at 11 a.m., but having two children under four can be taxing.
“Him owning a coffee shop is definitely really good, like, because if I didn’t have him to feed me and keep me in caffeine I would be probably a zombie,” Miranda says with a chuckle.
Miranda worked at a boutique called La De Da after moving to Harrisonburg to be with Chance. After La De Da closed down, the owner — knowing Miranda wanted to pursue a career in fashion — encouraged her to take over the space, thus The Yellow Button was born.
“I was only 25 when The Yellow Button opened and I was really, really nervous, you know, about taking on owning a whole business and I don’t think that I would have done it unless I was with Chance because he really encouraged me and I mean, was like … ‘You can do this and like, I’ll help you and we’ll figure it out together.’ I think that that definitely gave me the confidence to be able to go for it,” Miranda says.
Chance actually helped Miranda name The Yellow Button because of her love for the color yellow and her knack for collecting buttons. In turn, Miranda came up with the name Black Sheep Coffee.
“It’s only fair that I name the coffee shop if you name my store,” Miranda remembers joking.
When The Yellow Button opened, Miranda didn’t have any ties to Harrisonburg, so she considered applying to Free People, a
bohemian clothing company. However, she took the opportunity to open The Yellow Button in 2009.
“It was sort of funny; I actually came home one night and asked how [Chance] would feel about moving to Philadelphia if I got a job at Free People there and he said, ‘That would be cool, I would go’ and the following day I said, ‘How would you feel about staying in Harrisonburg forever?’ and he was like, ‘Um, I thought we were moving?’” Miranda says.
The store has grown in the last seven and a half years, relocating from South Main Street to The Ice House after closing down due to the restoration of the Thomas Harrison House. Miranda also expanded The Yellow Button to Charlottesville at The Shops at Stonefield in 2014.
All of her employees are either JMU or Bridgewater students, since her one full-time employee — who had been with the shop since the beginning — left after having a baby.
Black Sheep is still growing and receiving recognition nearly one and a half years after its opening.
“We’re getting a pretty good reputation considering we [were] one of the best in Virginia this last year in the Shenandoah Valley region coffee shop and … there’s voting going on with Blue Ridge Outdoors for the best coffee shop,” Chance says. “We’re one of five.”
Chance had an extensive background in food service and was always a coffee drinker. He knew Harrisonburg was in need of a coffee shop, so he jumped at the opportunity. However, it wasn’t always in their plan to own businesses side by side.
“We were looking at the space over here for her to move, when we noticed the spot next door would be perfect for a coffee shop,” Chance says.
He wanted a wholesome place that would be welcoming for a family.
It definitely helps The Yellow Button having the “best coffee shop in Harrisonburg next door.” Both the shops complement each other well, as The Ebersolds intended. People have meetings there and school groups assemble for a drink, which benefits the Yellow Button.
“I do see quite a few women come over with bags and get drinks,” Chance says. “I think they definitely complement each other because they’re definitely for people that appreciate good things.”
They see each other whenever Miranda texts Chance wanting something to eat or drink. The couple also shares a mailbox and are prone to running errands for each other, like going to the bank.
They help each other in other ways too, as Miranda calls Chance more tech-minded. He chose the point-of-sale system she uses on her cash registers, files her sales tax for her and also aids her with accounting, among other things. On the other hand, Miranda helps Chance with creativity, design and recipe ideas.
“A lot of her style is definitely apparent when it came to decorating and picking stuff for the coffee shop,” Chance says.
Besides his knack for coffee, Chance is also a handyman. He built all the tables and the counter for Black Sheep Coffee, as well as pretty much everything that’s wood in the coffee shop. He also constructed all the racks in The Yellow Button in both the Harrisonburg and Charlottesville stores, as well as all of the mirrors in the Charlottesville store.
“I’ve always enjoyed [woodworking] and I was at a crossroads where I was debating whether to try to make it more than a hobby, ’cause I had actually made, like, tables for our wedding … and I had done some other side projects like that … I was either going to pursue that a little bit more or open a coffee shop,” Chance says.
The Ebersolds hope their shops will continue to grow and gain more customers. Chance plans to begin in-house roasting at the beginning of 2017 in conjunction with the other roasters that the shop already carries. As for gaining customers, the Ebersolds want potential customers in the community to know where they’re located, since The Ice House, located on South LIberty Street, can be difficult to navigate to.
Chance hopes to expand Black Sheep Coffee to Hotel Madison, the new hotel at the intersection of Grace and South Main streets, which is estimated to be completed in March 2018.
“That’s my goal; I’ve talked with the developers a little bit, but obviously they haven’t really broken ground yet,” Chance says.
The Ebersolds say they’ve found their calling.
“I can’t imagine doing anything else. It would be very weird,” Miranda says. “I hope that I get to do this forever … or, you know, at least until one day when I want to sell the business and retire.”
Photos Courtesy of JMU Alumna (’08) Katie Stoops