By EVE THOMPSON
Located at 520 Caroline St., Agora Downtown Coffee Shop is tucked away in a little yellow building just next to the train station. It is marked by their logo: a cup of coffee, what else?
The first things most customers notice about Agora are the most important things– the friendly service and the art adorning the walls. These are just two elements that exemplify the local nature of the shop that customers experience.
The friendly service is due in part to many UMW students working there, like Payton Creamer, a sophomore communication and digital studies major. She started working at Agora in October, but she was a regular customer there before.
“When I think of Agora, I think of the first place in Virginia that felt like home to me, being an out-of-state student from Connecticut. It made me feel more connected to the new community because it is the most welcoming place, full of positive energy,” says Creamer.
The art on the walls appeals to many Agora visitors, such as Elizabeth Johnston, an undeclared freshman.
“I do a lot of art on the side, as a hobby, and to come in to a place [like Agora] and see art all over the walls, it’s really nice,” Johnston said.
Agora has an even deeper connection to downtown than just the baristas or the art. Sisters and co-owners Andi Stone Chitty and Meghan Stone grew up in the area.
“We were both born in Fredericksburg, and we grew up in Spotsylvania and Stafford. We came downtown often, and we both love downtown Fredericksburg,” said Stone Chitty.
The two had always dreamed of opening a coffee shop together, but they didn’t expect that it would happen so suddenly. However, Andi had just completed her bachelor’s degree in food science and technology, and Meghan had just earned a Master of Business Administration, so the timing matched up perfectly.
“We kind of looked at that and said, ‘Food, art, business. Maybe we should do this now, when we don’t have any obligations with families and such.’ Our mom had her eye on this location, so we kind of went from there,” Stone Chitty said.
Agora is a family affair. Andi and Meghan’s family, including their veteran father, are very involved, and it shows.
Sophomore English major Katia Savelyeva said, “The atmosphere is nice. It feels almost like you’re over at somebody’s house. The moment you come, it feels like you’re with friends and family, in a way that it doesn’t so much at other coffee shops.”
Savelyeva is one of many UMW students who visit Agora regularly. When asked about Agora’s connection to UMW, Stone Chitty talked about her own college experience.
“I remember when I was away at college. To have a place that you feel at home when you’re so far from home itself is so important. When people come in and they say, ‘Wow, this is like home to me,’ that appeals to a lot of people,” said Stone Chitty. “Plus, we have free refills on coffee for here,” she added, laughing.
Beyond the coffee and pastries, beyond the old books and fresh honey, what comes to everyone’s mind when they think about Agora is simple. It’s home, for both the Stone family and any customers who walk in.
Agora is open from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.