Converted van is city’s newest coffee spot

Coffee expert Sara Goldsmith will serve coffee, mulled apple cider and other hot drinks from this converted van parked across from Feast! inside Main Street Market. Photo by Paul Whicheloe Coffee expert Sara Goldsmith will serve coffee, mulled apple cider and other hot drinks from this converted van parked across from Feast! inside Main Street Market. Photo by Paul Whicheloe

Strung with holiday lights and equipped with an espresso machine and other warm drink-making accoutrements, a 1974 cherry red Citroën H Van parked inside Main Street Market will start serving early-morning beverages and snacks this week.

Coffee expert and Feast! employee Sara Goldsmith will be running the show, selling locally roasted coffees and coffee drinks, lemon ginger honey soothers, lavender London fog steamers, bone broths and mulled apple cider made from local fruit. There will be snacks, too, such as cheese toast, cinnamon toast, local hard-boiled eggs, cinnamon honey Greek yogurt and fresh fruit. Before joining the Feast! team, Goldsmith managed and consulted for boutique cafés in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Open at 7:30am daily, Monday through Saturday, the van will close in mid to late afternoon. Goldsmith says she eventually hopes to be open on Sundays, too.

Feast! specialty food shop owners Kate Collier and Eric Gertner own the van, which will be parked permanently across from Feast! at 418 W. Main St. They say that the van was originally built to sell artisan cheese at farmers markets in Bordeaux, France—the large glass case in the front of the it was created specifically for housing and displaying cheese, Goldsmith says.

Closing time

After more than 25 years of serving California-style Mexican eats in Charlottesville, casual cantina restaurant Baja Bean on 29 North will close its doors on December 16 and abandon the Charlottesville market altogether.

Baja Bean Co. owner Ron Morse opened the first Baja Bean in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1989, and it was so small it didn’t even have seating, Morse recalls. He brought the restaurant to the UVA Corner in 1992, then opened the 29 North location 12 years ago.

The Corner Baja Bean, once a popular spot for karaoke, closed in May 2013, and though Morse owns two other Baja Beans, one on West Beverley Street in Staunton and another in Richmond’s Fan District, he says the closing of the last Charlottesville location “is pretty depressing.”

“It’s not financially working out anymore,” says Morse of the restaurant, which has about 10 employees, some of them longtime Baja Bean employees, and business has declined over the years as 29 North has been built up. Now that places like Hollymead Town Center and The Shops at Stonefield have “lots of decent restaurants,” says Morse, people aren’t making the drive further down the road.

Both the Richmond and Staunton Baja Beans will remain open, and Morse has two more restaurants in Richmond (Station 2, a burger joint; and Postbellum, a chef-driven new American cuisine spot), plus two others in the works.

Morse, who has raised his family in Charlottesville, says that he loves the energy of the city and is sad to leave the market, particularly because of the community relationships the restaurant has forged. Over the years, Baja Bean has sponsored recreational sports teams, charity golf tournaments for Camp Holiday Trails, fundraisers and burrito days at local schools, and has catered events for many others.

Morse says he would rather hand over the place to “an angel” instead of closing it altogether, but despite the holiday season, that angel hasn’t yet appeared.

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