Inside the former National Mine Supply building in downtown Jenkins, the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee is strong, the pastries are fresh, and the smiles are warm.
Coal City Coffee is still in its first year of business in the building, which is also the home of SmileFaith Appalachia, a Florida-based nonprofit dental ministry, and Smile-Faith’s Wellness and Fun Center.
The building is located next to the Jenkins Public Library, and the coffee shop offers numerous flavors and blends for coffee lovers to enjoy, including cappuccinos, Frappuccinos, iced coffees, lattes and house blend. The shop also offers guests an atmosphere they would otherwise have to travel well outside of Letcher County to enjoy.
SmileFaith Appalachia Director and Coal City Coffee Manager Chrystal Bentley said the idea for the faith-based coffee shop was conceived out of a desire to not only offer Letcher County a business it otherwise did not have, but also as a mechanism to fund and promote SmileFaith’s free dental clinics, which have benefitted hundreds of people from across the region over the past several years.
“There wasn’t a coffee shop in Letcher County and we wanted to oTher the community something it didn’t have,” she said. “Everything here funds the free dental clinics. We use the funds from the coffee shop and the events center to purchase supplies, the anesthesia, anything the dental clinics would need.”
Coal City Coffee opened in July 2020. In addition to offering coffee from Pikeville’s Lincoln Road Roastery, the café also sells fresh pastries from Nonnie Pop’s General Store in Dorton, including crème horns, cookies and muffins.The coffee shop has also provided an alternative waiting area for SmileFaith’s free dental clinics, which Bentley said helps cut down on the apprehension some patients may experience while awaiting their dental appointments.
Coal City Coffee’s opening occurred in the midst of the second surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its beginning, it was simply a counter inside the large, open events center. That model offered the opportunity to thrive even with a 33-percent capacity mandate due to the pandemic.
“Even at 33 percent capacity, we were still able to have a large number of people and still safely space them out,” Bentley said.
Within the past several months, Coal City Coffee has been enclosed inside its own building-within-a-building. It is now a functioning coffee shop inside of SmileFaith Appalachia, and it hosts customers from nearby homes and businesses, such as the Appalachian Regional Hospital administrative and clinic offices located just up Main Street in Jenkins.
“Things have gone really well, and we’ve gotten great feedback from the community,” Bentley said. “Local businesses survive on local customers, and as more and more people find out about us, they’re finding out it’s a wonderful place to be.
“That’s what we need. We need people to know we’re here,” she said.
Bentley’s positivity is not without recognition of the difficulties of opening a new business while many others were closing, Bentley said it was “a little difficult” to get Coal City Coffee off the ground. While its attachment to a nonprofit entity helped during lean times, Bentley said the coffee shop survived because of a higher power: “God. That’s it.”
As circumstances with the pandemic improve, Bentley is looking toward potentially expanding the coffee shop and adding to the café’s current staff of three employees and several volunteers.
“As the coffee shop grows, so do the employment opportunities for our community,” she said.
The SmileFaith Wellness and Fun center is also expanding its offerings, Bentley said, with several events either centering around Coal City Coffee, or offering the coffee shop as a supplement. For Easter weekend, SmileFaith hosted a “Breakfast with the Easter Bunny” event and Easter egg hunt. The schedule of events coming over the next several months includes a spring pageant, mommy-and-son and daddy-and-daughter date nights, basketball and football camps, and live music every Friday evening. Those events are in addition to private bookings including birthday parties and other events.
Bookings for events can be made by calling 606-212-1116. Coal City Coffee is open from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. Local deliveries are available by calling the coffee shop at the previously mentioned number, and deliveries may be made in and around Jenkins, including to Whitesburg.
Bentley said everyone should feel welcome to visit Coal City Coffee.
“We try to make it a point to get to know everyone that comes through that door,” she said. “We want them to feel like they matter, because they do.”