What People Say…
An early Christmas in Brunswick 2012
Blog by Adam Anderson December 22, 2012
Beans in the Belfry
LeslieRhodes.com, October 23, 2012
My sister-in-law recently took me to an old church that was restored into this modern cafe. It took my breath away when I walked through the front doors. It had this vintage feel inside and was decorated with antiques which made it very welcoming. I really loved how they had a corner for the kids to play dress up and have a game of dominoes or chess.
I could spend hours in there with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. What really made my heart skip a beat was the lighting that was radiating into the church that late fall afternoon.
I’m excited to go back soon!
Beans in the Belfry
June 28, 2012 — I spent about three years in the tiny town of Brunswick, Maryland, doing little more than navel-gazing, although not necessarily always at my own. It was there in a beat-up apartment overlooking a train station and the Appalachian Trail beyond that I cultivated a taste for port, broke all Netflix records for disc-turnaround time, and germinated the idea that eventually evolved into OTIS.
The town’s about an hour northwest of Washington, DC, and adjacent to the fictionally infamous, but real town of Burkittsville. If you ever lose a bet with the devil and find yourself in Brunswick, I know exactly where you should go to pass your time: a 110-year-old abandoned church turned café.
For most of my years in Brunswick, the Reformed Presbyterian church at 122 West Potomac Street was just another abandoned piece of real estate on the town’s gasping main street. The red brick building was erected in 1901 and lasted as a church until 1968, when God apparently lost interest in it, as did everybody else. That is, until the next century.
Toward the end of my time in that town, the abandoned church was bought, renovated, and transformed into a café called Beans in the Belfry. I say renovated, but outside, the façade changed little. It still looked somewhat like an abandoned church, only now it had a small sign with the name of the café and some cast-iron sidewalk seating.
Turning a century-old church into a hang-out is a pretty cool maneuver, but I still never patronized it. I don’t remember why. Maybe I was too busy gathering up the courage to move at the time. Maybe I liked the idea of a repurposed church too much and was afraid to spoil it by entering to find an atmosphere only a notch above soup kitchen. Most probably, it was because it didn’t have a liquor license.
So when I left Brunswick, some seven years past, I left behind a loose end…which I finally picked up a few days ago.
Turns out, the Belfry (not a big fan of the full name) is unique in ways beyond being a church carapace. Somebody seems to have put a lot of hard work into creating a unique and cozy atmosphere. Its green walls and purple ceiling frame a space filled with eclectic decor. Antique sofas are spread around creating comfortable nooks. A small corner stage is set up for intimate musical acts. The dining tables are all gloriously mismatched. Random book shelves and picture frames fill up wall spaces. Partitions made of old doors divide the large space up somewhat. A trunk full of children’s costumes was open for its younger patrons.
But it also maintains many of the elements of the church it was, mostly notably repurposed pews here and there, a choir loft that serves as an internet café, and, of course, the many stained-glass windows, each one dedicated to the memory of some church-goer of old.
We were there for breakfast, and while we sat and ate our quiches, we saw a small, but steady stream of people come in. Some were locals, judging by the confident way they navigated the labyrinth of antique furniture. Others were hikers and bicyclists wandering sweaty off the Appalachian Trail just a block away. These latter always paused in surprise once their eyes adjusted to the stained-glass-lit interior before making their way up to the counter.
All in all, if the Belfry was in any major city, it’d be packed all the time, and you’dneed to be extremely cool to get past its velvet rope. I certainly admit that I impoverished my Brunswick life by not becoming a regular. And I’ll probably try the rest of my life to find a local hang-out like it again.
Oh, and since my residency there, it secured a beer and wine license, so God has begun shining his blessings on this building once again….just not to the level of gin yet.
From Feature Frederick
All independent cafés have a style all their own and I am a great fan and frequenter of many in the area, but Beans in the Belfry in downtown Brunswick, MD is altogether a unique creature upon the earth, not to mention Brunswick. Set in a former church, the interior of the café is defined by a large open area filled with eclectic vintage furniture…. Read the complete post
TOP THIS PLACE by WilliK
So I discovered this little sanctuary of calm in the hills of Brunswick, MD from the founder of the Brunswick Photographer’s Guild. They hold their semi-random meetings there on occasion and I was lucky that the first one I had the honor of attending was at Beans. The building that Beans is located in is former Methodist church that’s over 100 years old. Random fact: My father used to attend church there as a child. That doesn’t date me or anything . The interior is painted in a weird green pattern; I guess you could probably refer to it as mold seepage green. It really is charming though, I swear. They have a mish mashed, mix match of tables, chairs, couches, and clientele as any I’ve seen. It’s a place that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is a place to go if you want to chill out a relax.
So, now I’m ahead of myself. This was a slightly chilly Friday evening. I don’t get off from work until 5:30PM and with a haircut appointment and having to shower, shave, and get purdy, I knew I probably wouldn’t be spending most of my time on the road under the sun light. What better way to go cold dark conditions than on the motorcycle? So I found a suitable leather jacket laying around the house, made sure I wrapped up in layers, and headed out. Uneventful trip. Blah, blah, blah, and we/re here!
Impressive, no? I told you it was in an old church. Parking on the street can be a bit scarce and you need to feed the meters, but there’s a lot around back. The hill to get in is fairly steep and it’s mostly gravel, so it’s a bit treacherous to anyone on two wheels. Anyways, after getting settled and still feeling like I had to wind running through me, I trudged up the hill to what else, but the sound of music. Score! warm beverages, hot food, and good music awaits!.
On walking in I saw that the band playing was called the Jimi Cupino Project. They were a three piece of a guitar, a sometimes harmonica, and a set of large bongos(?). They weren’t too loud and they played a mix of classic rock and bluesy music. Beans has music acts and other activities randomly. There’s a schedule of their upcoming events that’s updated regularly on their website. I’ve seen other music acts and a play here as well as random clubs using the place to host meets.
So I set all my gear aside and headed up to order. Their menu consists of the normal coffee house fair of coffees, teas, hot drinks and includes a little extra like hot sandwiches and paninis as well as deserts ranging from baklava to homemade cookies. I order a chai latte and The Russian.
The chai was good, but it tasted like it was made from a mix. I’ve only ever been to one coffee house that makes them from scratch and it’s a dead giveaway at it being made from a mix when it’s almost sickeningly sweet. It was good, as far as chai latte’s go, but again, it was very, very sweet.
The Russian was basically a Reuben. It’s a corn beef and kraut sandwich on rye bread. There sandwiches are served with a pickle and a salad. The salad was a bit lacking in dressing. I’ve had it before and it was good. This is the first time I was unimpressed with it, but it looks like it’s mainly for plate dressing anyways. The pickle was awesome. You could serve me a pickle covered in mold and rolled in sand and I’d probably tell you it was awesome. The only way to make an awesome pickle awesomer is to fry it and you could even keep the mold and sand. What can I say, I like pickles. The sandwich was excellent and that’s what keeps bringing me back. The Russian wasn’t dry at all and the bread was toasted but not dry. It had a nice crunch on the outside, but the rest of it was moist and airy. And although I like Reubens, my enthutiasm for them isn’t as great as pickles. This sandwich was great as is so no additional condiments or modifications were necessary.
So after enjoying my dinner and a few good tunes, I geared up and headed home. Was it worth risking life and limb in the cold with a headlight that’s only good for finding anything dropped on the ground next to the front wheel? Yes! If you’re in the area and you just need a break from something, anything, make sure you check out Beans in the Belfry for a good time and a much deserved break.
The Gravy Soppers sing about the barn yard at Beans in the Belfry
November 11, 2011
I went out to Beans in the Belfry Friday and as usual there was a group set to perform. This week it was, I’m not kidding this is the name, The Gravy Soppers!
You’re wondering when the Coffee Slurpers are coming? Ask Hanna.
Anyway, when I got there the band had set up but the musicians were not to be seen so I checked that all the folks waiting had everything they needed. There was a family group at the large round table, Mom, Dad and three kids, all under coffee drinking age.
I made sure the “equipment” for our younger guests was available, fire engine, football helmet, blocks, etc. But don’t you know it was Mom’s eyes that lit up when she saw the crown from the costume trunk. It was hers for the evening.
The middle son was “flying” our leather couch, superman style, while his older and younger brothers checked out the play house over in the living room area.
Some more musicians sort of drifted in the door and it looked like the music was about to begin.
Much to my surprise the family with the kids and “Queen Mother” were the Gravy Soppers or at least the Momma sopper, the Poppa sopper and even one little sopper. The eldest son, about 11, I guess, played banjo right along with the rest of the band.
I admit, I was impressed. He was, no pun intended, not just a sop, he was playing along with the adults on a banjo that was taller than his next younger brother. (I wonder if he ever wrestles his banjo and plays his brother?)
The music was lively – lively? It was down right foot stompin’! Old Time Americana with “G rated” barn yard humor, “the ole red roosta don’t get around like he usta”.
The only thing missing was someone beating time on an inverted wash tub and there was not a corn cob pipe in sight but it was really fun!
Everyone sang along and tapped their toes (we know because Beans in the Belfry has a toe tap meter) and were sorry to see the evening end which it did with Mom’s crown tilted jauntily and “Charlie Chaplin’s” bowler still improbably square on his head. (How does he do that?)
BEANS IN THE BELFRY: LOCAL FAMILY. LOCAL FOOD. LOCAL FUN.
- MoJo: want2dish December 9, 2011, by Dominique Marsalek
Nestled in the scenic landscape between the C&O Canal and Gathland State Park, 20 minutes outside of the city of Frederick, is a tiny historic railroad town called Brunswick. Potomac Street, the nerve center of downtown Brunswick, is home to a couple of local shops and one unique place to hang out and meet with friends and family — Beans in the Belfry.
Beans is a hyper local family-owned coffee shop and café that features locally roasted, organic, fair trade coffee by day and local music with beer and wine by night. The local DiPasquale family bought the historic church that houses the café about eight years ago. The church was built in 1910 and had been neglected since the 1960s when the Baltimore and Ohio railroad moved out of town taking 90 percent of the town’s jobs with them. This dramatic job loss was followed by the destruction of the Milling Company due to a fire and the loss of further employment due to a small exodus sparked by the loss of the B&O railroad. Despite this, the town has made it, little by little, building a reputation as a scenic home for tourists seeking history, culture and nature.
The main street in town is still riddled with vacant buildings and there is still work to be done in rebuilding this town. However, hope stands with the few shops that have survived and thrived despite the recession and a history of struggle. Melanie DiPasquale, the owner and manager of Beans fell in love with the historic building when she was sightseeing with her children and came across the boarded up building covered in weeds and ivy. A fine art’s major with a degree from George Washington University, Melanie bought the building and began the long arduous work of repairing and remodeling it. Leaving a 14-year career with Giant Food behind, Melanie knew that “despite the security of a union position, Brunswick needed me.”
Melanie’s advice for those seeking to start their own business? “It’s not something for the faint of heart,” she chuckles and then gets serious, “make sure you have capital and back up capital. Make sure your family is on board.” Despite the difficulty and daily trials of running her own business, she finds it inspiring and sees it as her dreams coming true. “I was just a commuter like everybody else, taking the train to Rockville every day. I didn’t even realize that there was a downtown and at first, it was like a ghost town. I realized this meant you can make it whatever you want. Now there is a generation of kids and families that have created life long memories here,” she said. Now there are local artists who come to play music at Beans regularly. In fact, the local bands “Craggy Island” and “Willie Barry” got their start here.
What many might not know, even those who live with this town in their own backyard, is that there is a vibrant art community in Brunswick. But without the funds and capital that downtown Frederick has, Brunswick has had to depend entirely on small-scale stores and places like Beans to gather, meet, and sell their work. Building community is one important goal of Beans. It might seem odd to have this as a business goal, she explained, but in this small town, you support each other. Growing up in suburban Montgomery County, Melanie always knew something was wrong. Her neighbors never spoke to each other and everyone acted afraid. But, that’s not the world she wanted her kids to grow up in. “You’ve got to be able to step outside of your house and get somewhere without a car. You’ve got to be able to live in the community you live in, to interact on your turf. The same people that are customers here, I’m their customer at their shop.”
Beans is not only the place to get coffee and food, it is the place for local artists to meet, for families to gather, and for local groups to meet. Whatever the local community needs or wants, Beans works to meet that need. When first walking into the building, you will find local crafts for sale, veggies from the Beans garden during the summer, and history on display, with shelves featuring books published by local writers and old photos of the town long ago, before the railroad left.
This weekend Beans is hosting the second annual GingerBread House Building Competition to benefit the local food bank. The town will be celebrating the holidays as well and Beans will be taking part by roasting chestnuts outside the front door. For information on signing up for the competition, holiday events, or regular music and entertainment, please visit: Beansinthebelfry.com or https://www.facebook.com/beansinthebelfry.
Melanie DiPasquale, Proprietor of Beans in the Belfry speaks about Art at Beans in the Belfry, joined by Karin Birch, textile artist, Brunswick, MD.