Coffee is life. Well, maybe not life. But it certainly makes life easier. It’s something we can bond over, something warm and comforting when our spouses are away, and something that brings us together as spouses. Coffee creates community. Veteran-owned coffee creates a military-friendly community.

From coffee groups to coffee playdates, we use “coffee” as a term that means much more than simply drinking it. And we aren’t the only ones. Our service member partners and their friends love coffee too, some of them love it so much that it has become their life, quite literally.

Swatara Coffee Company

How One Veteran-owned Coffee Company Creates Community

Gilmore Girls fans everywhere have longed for a local version of Luke’s, a place for good coffee, a staff that truly knows and cares about you, and an atmosphere that is as comfortable as your living room. Swatara Coffee Company, located in Jonestown, Pennsylvania, is exactly that coffee shop.

While co-owners John and Joanna aren’t remotely as grumpy as Luke from Gilmore Girls (they’re not grumpy at all!), they have established the same sense of community—all around a deliciously warm cup of coffee. “We opened intentionally to create a space for our community,” Joanna Guldin-Noll said. “We are in a rural area, about 5 miles outside of Fort Indiantown Gap.” The area is rural, with a few small communities making up the local school district and no main population center.

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“There’s no other coffee shop in the northern part of the county, and it’s been really exciting to watch people embrace this place of community and culture,” Guldin-Noll says. Jonestown is her hometown, and when her husband John left the Navy a few years ago, the couple settled here.

Creating A Space for Community

How One Veteran-owned Coffee Company Creates Community

Swatara works hard to source as much as they can from local, small businesses. “It’s part of being a good neighbor in the community,” Guldin-Noll said. “We highlight small business owners and artisans in the community, and even work with the local library.”

Milk and ice cream come from the local dairy farm. Bread from a local bakery, local honey is used, even pickles from a local picklery! And, of course, the coffee comes from a local roaster.

Even the building itself is a nod to the local community. “It’s a pre-Civil War building on Main street,” she said. “The furniture in the shop was made by a local craftsman who planed the wood from trees in the community.” On the walls, you’ll see art from local artists, some who show in galleries and some are local students building their portfolio.

Watching Coffee Bring People Together

But what is most exciting about Swatara and the atmosphere, is watching the community come to life. Inside the coffee shop are people, people who are choosing this location to meet each other’s babies for the first time. To share a cookie with their grandchildren, to hang out while their children are in dance class across the street. And even, to go on a date.

“About four months into this adventure, a couple came in for their first date. Then they came back for a surprise engagement that we got to participate in!” Guldin-Noll said. “We try very intentionally to bring the community in,” and it’s obvious they want to be there.

Swatara is located right next to the food pantry, which makes coordinating food drives an easy way to give back. They also partner with the library, which does some pretty cool things on their own. “Each year the library picks a book and everyone in the community is supposed to read it,” she explained. The author comes for a talk, we have book groups, it’s a real community event. The past two years, Swatara—which hosts quite a few book club gatherings on a regular basis—created a themed drink or dessert.

Two years ago, the community read America’s First Daughter, and Swatara made peanut butter chocolate frappes, blending America and Europe the way the main character did in her personality. Last year the book read was The Baker’s Secret which told the story of the Normand Invasion through the eyes of a woman in the French Resistance. Swatara made an apple Normandy tart for the occasion. All of the proceeds from those sales go back into the library.

Veteran Owned, Veteran Supported

How One Veteran-owned Coffee Company Creates Community

Fort Indiantown Gap is the home base for a large community of National Guard and Reservists, and they frequent Swatara for a break from the installation. “Veterans come by and share their coffee experiences or the memories they have attached to their service and coffee,” Guldin-Noll said. 

“We hope they feel it is their home away from home.”

Coffee and veterans aren’t a new thing. We’ve seen several veteran-owned coffee companies spring up in the last decade. From big-name suppliers to local roasters to coffee shops like Swatara, we see veterans and military spouses sharing their love for coffee and people with their communities.

Feeling welcome, feeling loved, feeling safe can all come from a good cup of coffee in a friendly atmosphere. We do it as military spouses all the time. We have coffee dates and coffee groups and we spend time around warm beverages developing warm friendships. Coffee may not be life, but it certainly adds to ours.

Check out 7 Kid-Friendly Coffee Shops in the South Pugent Sound!

How One Veteran-owned Coffee Company Creates Community


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Photo Credit: Pixabay, Swatara Coffee Company

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