Article published November 27, 2015 in Coastal Point By Tripp Colonell, Staff Reporter
It’s a coffeehouse, and it’s an art gallery. It’s a fine crafts gallery, and it’s a sandwich shop. It’s a stage for poetry readings, acoustic sets and art nights, a place to grab the morning paper, a place for locals, a place for tourists and a place for everyone.
But even after taking over the Artful Bean Coffee Shop in Bethany Beach this past April, new owners Rose O’Hanlan and Kim Warner still plan on what has long been an area staple of art and culture becoming even more. And they’ve only just begun unwrapping their plans.
“We want people to think about the Artful Bean not only as a coffee shop but as a place that they can go and be creative, and have a good time enjoying life for the moment that they’re in,” Warner said. “We just want to make every day an experience for the customers, the people that work here, and for ourselves.”
Making every day an experience has been the mantra ever since making the move from Philadelphia last spring. With plans of leaving city life behind, and with O’Hanlan quitting her corporate gig as a day-trader on the exchange floor, turned number-crunching HR manager, she and Warner were looking for a community that they could embrace. And with Bethany Beach, they found one.
“We fell in love with the pace and the people here in Bethany Beach,” Warner said of their new home. “One of our goals was to have an establishment that served the community. We wanted an opportunity that allowed us to get in with a close-knit community, and Bethany Beach is definitely that close-knit community.”
“I love it here, I do. My life is measurably better,” added O’Hanlan. “We kind of came in and hit the ground running, but we had a great summer season. I think the place is meant for community, I definitely feel that.”
But while they were taking to Bethany during their first summer in business, Bethany was taking to them, too. It didn’t take long for the town’s newest baristas to start learning names, faces, drinks and even stories. Warner still works a 9-to-5 during the week and jumps behind the counter on the weekends, but O’Hanlan has quickly become the face of the Bean — which Warner says is exactly where she’s meant to be.
“Where you see Rose flourish is talking to people,” she explained. “From my point of view, that’s so rewarding, to be able to see that interaction, because she knows everybody who walks through that door. She didn’t have that before, handling numbers is a skill of hers, but you can learn that — you can’t learn what she has inside.”
The customers can see that, too, including “Hot and Spicy Susie” — an Artful Bean regular who doesn’t even drink coffee.
“Rose and Kim are a great combo. They’re good people to have here in town,” she said, having been dubbed with the nickname after always ordering her chai tea extra hot and extra spicy. “It’s just a feel-good place. They want to make you happy. They’ve definitely made me happy, and I don’t even drink coffee.”
Coffee, tea, lattes, cappuccino and special drinks are, of course, always offered at the shop, for regulars and newcomers alike, but the barista board is always changing, depending on the season.
“At the end of the day, you still have to have a good cup of coffee,” said O’Hanlan, noting that even without everything else about the shop, that coffee comes first. “We try to stay current… We had a ‘Love Wins’ after the Supreme Court marriage equality — that was a big hit. During the storm, we did the ‘Nor’Easter.’ We try and stay with some current themes. What I love about that is [the baristas] will come up with all kinds of crazy things, and then we get to try them.”
To go along with the drink concoctions is the shop’s revamped breakfast and lunch menu. One of the major differences has been adding meats to the menu, but vegan and gluten-free options are still offered, and specialty sandwiches, including the “Cubano” and the “Goldie Lox,” with fresh salmon, capers, onion and cream cheese on a bagel, with the lox fresh from ACME in New York, steal the show.
Specialty items, such as Taylor’s Toffee out of Fenwick Island, baked goods from Birch Tree Cafe, healthy options for kids and cooler drinks are also amongst some of the more frequent and popular items found on the menu, but with plans for renovations this winter to make the shop flow more efficiently, some new features, including soups, salads, and a “grab and go” counter for beachgoers are also in the works.
“The changes are going to be gradual,” said Warner of the future plans for the shop. “Our ownership is going to be a progression of improvements. We want to continue to listen to our customers.”
Other potential future changes and improvements on the way include hosting more events. As soon as this winter, the shop will start hosting poetry and reading nights on various topics, paint nights, spiritual guide and medium nights, mandala-coloring nights, and more — including an acoustic set featuring “Girls with Guitars” on Saturday, Nov. 28.
“People love the fact that this is also like an art gallery, so we’re going to keep it that way and only make enhancements to it,” Warner said. “We have this unique thing. We’re not just a coffee shop, we’re a place that you walk in and feel like you want to hang out.”
Whatever else becomes part of the vision for the Artful Bean, however, one thing that the new owners maintained would never change was how the treat their customers.
“We have staff meetings pretty regularly. It’s always about customer service,” O’Hanlan noted. “For me, the most important thing is energy. You’ve gotta have good positive energy. That’s what we would like, and to be very inclusive. I want to have as much diversity as possible. We want people from everywhere.”
The Artful Bean is located at 20 Pennsylvania Avenue in Bethany Beach. During current winter hours, the shop is open Sunday through Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, a full menu, or list of upcoming events, visit www.theartfulbean.com