Eric Kelley became a coffee drinker only last July. A little over a year later, he’s about to open a new coffee shop on the Corner. Now that’s a quick conversion to caffeine! This particular place is called Para Coffee. Kelley tells us that Para is a Spanish word meaning “for the intended purpose of.” The shop is located at the old site of Blue Wheel Bicycles (most recently and briefly the location of a morphing business called Mod) on Elliewood Avenue and will offer a full coffee and espresso bar with Central and South American-grown coffee bean varieties roasted locally by Shenandoah Joe.
You might ask how someone so new to coffee could make such a quick transition from buyer to brewer. Part of the reason is that Kelley has a pretty close relationship with Shenandoah Joe owner Dave Fafara. The latter was Kelley’s diving coach at UVA and has been putting Kelley through “coffee school” to learn the ropes. The other reason is that Kelley is motivated not just by a burning need to become a barista, but also by a belief in the power of the coffee shop to bring the community together. UVA students who want an alternative to the bar scene, groups who need a place to group, lecturers who want a place to lecture, artists, musicians, townies, the homeless—you name it, Kelley and his fiancée and partner Lora Keady want them to feel comfortable at Para.
Makes sense: Eric Kelley envisions Para Coffee as, among other things, a place for groups who need a place to group.
Lest you think Kelley and Keady have overly lofty goals, we should mention here that they’re both experienced in the art department and the giving department. Kelley, a 2006 UVA studio arts graduate, is a freelance photographer (in addition to many a wedding, he’s also shot plenty of pics for this paper). The idea behind Para started when Kelley approached his pastor at Portico Church about planning a project that would have him riding a bike from Alaska to Argentina. When his pastor suggested he stick around town and help with local community issues instead, the idea behind a coffee shop-cum-arts-and-community-center began to brew, so to speak.
Keady similarly is an active member of the church community, having come to Charlottesville to pursue a leadership fellowship at Trinity Presbyterian Church. She’s also a guitarist and singer and will be running the music and arts programming for Para, which she says will be marked by “excellence.” Despite Para’s all-welcoming nature, Keady tells us not to expect those dreadful coffee shop open mic nights where amateurs sing out their journal entries or anything. Para will offer the walls to artists and the stage to musicians who are “serious about their craft,” she says. Para is already planning programming with New City Arts Initiative, the indie Christian music cooperative, Square Peg Alliance, and a Christian lecture program called Three Things Charlottesville for future showings and events.
Among its other neighborly offerings, Para will provide free WiFi, a free, reservable upstairs meeting space, tasty treats from Albemarle Baking Company and HotCakes and “Sweet Tea Tuesdays”—a happy hour-like event featuring a Keady family sweet tea recipe.
Para will open after building renovations are completed around September 1 and will feature late-night hours—until midnight during the week and 1am Thursday-Sunday. How’s that for giving?
Finally, there’s some life over at the gargantuan and long-vacant Sam Maverick space on 29N. A new place called The Boathouse Restaurant is getting into ship shape in time for a September 20 opening. The folks behind it are Al Chadsey and Bob Slade—a restaurant developer of chain concepts. Slade’s group was behind the original launching of Maverick as a brand prototype and recently launched the PGA Tour Grill in Rockville, Maryland. Slade tells us The Boathouse will serve steaks and seafood, and is inspired in look and feel by historic Boathouse Row in Philadelphia. Slade expects The Boathouse concept to be replicated in other cities. We expect to see a lot of rowing paraphernalia, but no word yet on whether the servers will greet you with “G’day mate.”
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