Flood City Café regulars might occasionally receive a CD from a smiling barista who overheard them mentioning a favorite band during a previous visit.
Other times, random customers will unexpectedly get a cup of coffee or snack through Give a Joe, a program funded by tips from other patrons that is a way for the new business to “be a blessing, by blessing you.”
Co-owners Dan Shaffer and David Wilhelm hope little personal touches, like those free thank-you gifts, can help create a welcoming environment inside their establishment, which opened a little more than a week ago at 137 Clinton St. in downtown Johnstown.
“One of our goals in having a coffee shop in general is to be able to get to know people. ... We want to build a relationship, a friendship, and, if we happen to sell them a cup of coffee, then all the better,” Shaffer said.
Coffee is the main attraction with Flood City Café offering a large variety from a basic house roast to lattes. The drinks are complemented by paninis, wraps, desserts, soups, salads, breakfast foods and other items, prepared by chef Chris Rehner.
There are selections for vegetarians, vegans, individuals with lactose or gluten concerns, and those with big appetites. The selections include a jammin jalapeño panini, gooey grilled cheese, Italian wedding soup in a bread bowl and the double decker Dagwood, a large sandwich named after those made by a well-known character from the comic strip “Blondie.”
“We honestly just picked a lot of the foods that we really like, that we imagine being in a café setting,” said Wilhelm.
Along with selling food and drinks, the partners plan to hold cuppings, the coffee equivalent of a wine-tasting. A drive-through window is scheduled to open soon.
There will be an expressive vibe with open mic nights and displays by local artists. “For us, creativity is a very big part of why we’re doing this,” said Shaffer. “It kind of fuels change and that’s what we’re hoping to be able to accomplish in Johnstown.”
Shaffer and Wilhelm have actually started two businesses in the building.
The other is Vision Light Media, a marketing company.
“Our heart is for the city,” said Wilhelm. “We’re both young and have entrepreneurial spirits, and we believe that the city is in a renaissance.
“We believe that there are people that want to see change. We recognize that industry is not going to come back, but, with us being involved in technology and things, we think that change can happen.
“We believe that it’s going to be changing the heart of the city first to take it from the thought that things are dead and they’re always going to stay dead to convincing people that there are good people here and good things are going to happen here. If you can change the heart of a community, you can change the entire city.
“We fully believe that.”
Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/Dave_Sutor.