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2018-06-20 / Featured / Taste

Coal Mine Coffee unearths casual digs, sweet treats

BY RICH GRISET STAFF WRITER

Coal Mine Coffee combines coffee and sweets, such as carrot cake fudge and traditional chocolate fudge. JENNY McQUEEN Coal Mine Coffee combines coffee and sweets, such as carrot cake fudge and traditional chocolate fudge. JENNY McQUEEN For the better part of 150 years, Midlothian was synonymous with coal mining. Until 1750, the area known as Midlothian had North America’s only coal mines; when Thomas Jefferson became president, he ordered that the White House be heated with Midlothian coal.

Today, a different type of fuel is held in high esteem near the intersection of Midlothian Turnpike and Woolridge Road: coffee. And, as the owners of recently opened Coal Mine Coffee can attest, this fuel is also in high demand.

Since it launched in November, Coal Mine Coffee has provided sandwiches, scones, fudge and plenty of cups of joe to Midlothian’s under-caffeinated. Lori Thompson, the cafe’s co-owner, says she was inspired to start the business after moving to the area six years ago and not finding a coffee shop that struck her fancy. The name came out of a conversation with Thompson’s son, who mentioned that his classmates liked to visit Mid-Lothian Mines Park, also off Woolridge, after school.

Tricia Heycock, co-owner of Coal Mine Coffee, at the cafe off Woolridge Road. JENNY McQUEENTricia Heycock, co-owner of Coal Mine Coffee, at the cafe off Woolridge Road. JENNY McQUEENThe story of how Thompson found her business partner is a sweet one: She and Tricia Heycock first met while attending Huguenot United Methodist Church two decades ago. With kids attending different schools, the two friends drifted apart, only to reunite a few years ago, when Thompson visited Heycock’s previous business, the candy store Sweets ’n Treats in Sycamore Square.

When Heycock closed her store last year, she and Thompson got to work on Coal Mine Coffee, with Heycock bringing her signature homemade fudge to the new business venture. “She had a real following,” Thompson says. “It just made sense to incorporate that into a coffee shop.”

Coffee at Coalmine Coffee is sourced from local roaster Roastology. JENNY McQUEENCoffee at Coalmine Coffee is sourced from local roaster Roastology. JENNY McQUEENIn addition to old standbys like chocolate, vanilla and peanut butter, Coal Mine also offers a rotating list of special fudge flavors, including s’more, carrot cake, orange creamsicle, Key lime pie and dark chocolate sea salt caramel.

Fudge isn’t the only carryover from Sweets ’n Treats; the front of the coffee shop includes a jelly bean station and a few shelves of candy. While Thompson and Heycock say the candy portion of the shop is in flux, they do see significant interest in specialty items like their candied and roasted Bavarian nuts.

“When we do those, you can almost see the cinnamon/sugar in the air. It’s so heavenly,” says Heycock, who transitioned into confections after a varied career in journalism, fundraising and human resources.

Overall, the owners say Coal Mine specializes in indulgences, and recently introduced ice cream from local creamery Gelati Celesti. The cafe plans to add desserts that meld ice cream and coffee, including floats and espresso pour-overs.

“It’s not about being fussy, or being over the top,” Heycock says. “We’re not coffee snobs.”

For those not looking to satisfy a sweet tooth, Coal Mine also offers a cafe-style menu with a variety of sandwiches, potato salad and breakfast sandwiches. The store sources locally where it can, using tomatoes and honey from local producers and Midlothian-baked Prairie Grain Bread; their coffee comes from Midlothian roastery Roastology.

“Our goal is not to be gourmet,” Heycock says. “It’s to be a very good sandwich for a reasonable price.”

Six months after opening, the cafe has already garnered its share of regulars, including Rob Heare and Randy Hall. The two friends have had a standing Monday morning coffee date at Coal Mine for the past four months. Two weeks ago, they nabbed a table near the window.

“[It’s] just a neat place that’s nearby, and we’re supporting a local business,” said Heare, who lives in the village. “They have very good coffee. I will tell you, my grandchildren have been here because of the candy.”

At the shop, Heycock handles day-to-day operations, and Thompson helps with the back end of running the business. By day, Thompson is part of an executive team for a franchise development company.

While she wouldn’t mind having more than one location in the Richmond area, Thompson doesn’t want Coal Mine Coffee to become a franchise. Instead, she says she just wants a place where everyone feels welcome, touting that the cafe is often filled with youngsters playing board games, or drinking hot chocolate on snowy days.

“Sometimes [coffee shops] can be kind of dark and lonely places,” Thompson says. “We really want this to be a cool hangout.” ¦

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