Bringing new life to Olde Main Street with flavor and teamwork.
All it takes is a kernel of an idea. From there, a Possibilitarian can turn frustration to hope, stagnation to vitality, “Why bother?” to “How can I help?”
That’s what you’ll see in these stories: West Virginians whose love for their communities turns out to be fertile ground where ideas sprout, thrive, and fertilize the imaginations of those around them. Sometimes to their own surprise, their purposeful action is catalyzing lasting change.
How many basketball coaches does it take to open an ice cream store and a tap house? As it turns out, in St. Albans, it takes three—and all jokes aside, these three locals are an essential part of the town’s growing revitalization. Bryan England, T.J. Douglas, and Jordan Garrett became friends with each other at different times for different reasons. But they really started spending a lot of time together as a trio when England became the head coach of the St. Albans High School boys’ basketball team in 2017 and brought Douglas and Garrett on as his assistant coaches. They worked well as a team, and that turned into a successful business partnership.
According to England, it all started with Douglas. “He had the entrepreneurial bug,” he says. “His dream was a craft beer bar. But to get to that, we knew we were going to have to start smaller, and so we brainstormed food trucks and other ideas.”
That’s how Crafts of the Coal got its start. To start learning the mechanics of running a business, the group analyzed the local market to see what was missing. They realized there weren’t many places where you could get high-quality, hand-scooped ice cream. So they took that idea, ran with it, and started the company with a food truck in July 2020. Their gamble paid off. Crafts of the Coal has since expanded to encompass two food trucks—one in Charleston and one in Teays Valley—and a flagship store on Olde Main Street in St. Albans.
The lack of business experience was daunting, but thanks to an entrepreneurial attitude passed down by Douglas’ mother, who is a business owner herself, and the fact that coaching had helped them hone a lot of applicable skills, the friends got a strong start. “There are so many parallels between coaching and athletics on the one hand and running a business on the other,” England says, “and, with our backgrounds, I think the transition has been rather easy for us.”
The evidence of that? Now, across from that brick-and-mortar Crafts of the Coal spot is the second part of their dream—The Tap, a craft beer spot that also offers classic, tasty tavern food. “We had The Tap in mind the entire time we were opening Crafts of the Coal,” England says, noting that they wasted no time: Just over a year after the ice cream store opened its doors, they were ready to welcome folks in across the street.
The community response has been overwhelming, England says—especially the support they’ve felt from other small business owners. “I think everybody that has a small business understands the risks that it takes to open one and also the work that’s involved with it,” he says. “It’s just amazing to see people support each other knowing that, even though there may be some competition there, you still want somebody to succeed. When one small business succeeds, it helps the other small businesses as well.”
The motivation of small business owners like England, Douglas, and Garrett, coupled with that camaraderie with their fellow entrepreneurs, has meant big change for Olde Main Street. “Just a few years ago, we had seven, eight empty buildings on Main Street,” England continues. “And now there’s only a couple. We’ve got restaurants, we’ve got shops, we’ve got ice cream shops, we’ve got bars and restaurants, we’ve got a really nice coffee shop. All those people have been super supportive of us, and we are of them as well. And I think it goes a long way and really helps with the success of everyone, specifically in St. Albans.”
READ MORE ARTICLES FROM WV LIVING’S SPRING 2023 ISSUE
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