Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate and Stovehouse Properties announced the addition of a brand-new, locally owned coffee shop will be serving up espresso, lattes, cold brew, matcha and much more at the mixed-use development off Governors Drive.
Charlie Foster’s, founded by Huntsville natives Austin Jenkins and Hollie Jenkins, will offer high-quality coffee drinks while providing employment opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The 1,850-square-foot space will be situated directly adjacent to the food garden and include a private 500-square-foot outdoor patio for patrons. Charlie Foster’s is slated to open in Q4 2019.
After years of working with the special needs community through Huntsville’s Merrimack Hall Performing Arts Center, Austin decided he wanted to combine his two passions—making excellent coffee and being an advocate for anyone with special needs.
“My parents, Debra and Alan Jenkins, founded Merrimack Hall in 2006 to give people with special needs a venue to practice the performing arts,” said Austin. “I’ve been lucky enough to see the impact they have made first hand, and I want to do something similar with Charlie Foster’s. We believe more businesses can offer employment to people with intellectual and physical disabilities. Our goal is to create an environment of inclusion and encouragement for our special needs community. All the while, we will be serving outstanding coffee in a very hip, industrial space.”
Classifying itself as a “multi-roaster” coffee shop, Charlie Foster’s will serve a variety of beans from roasters around the country, so guests can experience an array of options and flavors. There will also be plenty of cold and hot teas and pastries to choose from.
“In the beginning, we hope to serve Middle State Coffee, which is a roaster out of Denver, Colorado,” said Austin. “They’ve done an exceptional job of creating beautifully roasted coffees with flavors that rival anything else in the market. Once we get settled in, we will bring more options to the table from other roasters throughout the U.S., so our guests can sample more of what’s out there and find their perfect cup. Our choices will be based on customer demand, and if they want something in stock we will do our best to get it for them.”
Charlie Foster’s menu will feature a variety of espresso-based drinks including cappuccinos, lattes, cortados, americanos, pour-overs, cold brew and more. It will also have matcha, a variety of teas, rotating specialty drinks and locally made pastries. While many specialty drink recipes are already in the works, the team encourages patrons to be vocal about what types of flavors they’d like to try.
When it comes to the interior design, Hollie said it will fit in with the rest of the Stovehouse development aesthetically while maintaining its own unique vibe. Comfy couches and oversized chairs will be placed throughout the space in addition to bar seating, outdoor patio tables, and traditional seating inside. There will also be a retail component of the shop where guests can purchase branded t-shirts, stickers, mugs and more. Within the retail area, the co-owners plan to offer a space for local artists to display and sell their works.
“We wanted Charlie Foster’s to have memorable features and funky elements throughout the décor,” said Hollie. “For instance, our espresso machine will be hot pink with bright red grinders, and we will have a wall dedicated to a giant cold brew tower made with scientific glass. Our architect has done an incredible job of designing a cozy, contemporary space that people will want to hang out in all day long.”
In order to pay homage to its connection with Merrimack Hall, Austin decided to name the coffee shop after a piece of Westside Huntsville’s history. Construction on Merrimack Mills began in 1898 and the performing arts center served as the hub of the thriving mill village. Between 1908 and 1912, investigative journalist Lewis Hine toured industrial plants up and down the eastern seaboard, documenting the prevalent practice of child labor. Hine’s photograph of Charlie Foster as he entered the Merrimack Mills gate was one of many photographs that were instrumental in convincing several states to pass strict labor laws to protect young children. Hine and his photographs eventually influenced Congress to pass the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.
“Charlie Foster’s shares a vision with Merrimack Hall and it made sense to incorporate them into the shop,” said Austin. “We will even have some of the art created by students at Merrimack available for purchase in store. This includes paintings and pottery.”
Although Austin and Hollie have been planning to open a coffee shop for quite some time, the pair said they were waiting on the perfect location to make it a reality. Upon visiting Stovehouse, they immediately knew it was Charlie Foster’s future home.
“We’ve visited several locations in the past and nothing felt like it fit,” said Austin. “Once we saw Stovehouse, we were blown away because it gave our coffee shop an opportunity to be part of an impressive destination. The camaraderie between the businesses, the look and feel of the development, the ease of access and visibility—it all fell into place.”
Danny and Patti Yancey, co-owners and developers of Stovehouse, are thrilled to welcome Charlie Foster’s to the site and look forward to having outstanding coffee backed by a great cause.
“Austin and Hollie brought us a concept that we believe is the perfect fit for Stovehouse,” said Danny. “The team at Charlie Foster’s has been well trained in making quality coffee—something the many businesses already open at Stovehouse have been eager to have on campus. They offer a great product, and visitors to our development will see first-hand the support our city has for its special needs community. We can’t wait for them to open later this year.”
Charlie Foster’s will be open seven days a week starting at 5:30 a.m. with a closing time TBD.
“One of the things that makes Stovehouse so special is its focus on incorporating locally owned businesses,” said Anusha Davis, leasing agent at Crunkleton Commercial Real Estate. “Austin has spent years perfecting his skills and knowledge of the coffee industry, and we are excited to have Charlie Foster’s debut in Huntsville. Because Stovehouse is home to many businesses, having coffee on site was crucial. Charlie Foster’s not only has great coffee but a great mission as well.”
“It’s going to be a place where everyone feels welcome,” said Austin. “Our baristas will be trained from the get-go to prepare spectacular coffee. At Charlie Foster’s, people with special needs will be working alongside typical workers, which we believe will be a benefit to our staff, customers, and the community as a whole. Our aim is to place our special needs staff in the best position possible for growth, whether that be as a greeter, cashier, assistant barista, or making high-quality coffee themselves.”