Would you like some music with your coffee?
Published 10:00 pm Monday, January 25, 2016
A few months ago I was driving through Gramling and noticed an old brick building along the highway. A sign above the entrance still announced the general store that had served the community long ago, but was long since gone. A little black and white sign in the window read “Frank’s Coffee.” I took notice and knew it was a future stop for my wanderings.
One day while glancing through the Bulletin, something caught my attention. “Eighteen Cellos Perform at Frank’s Coffee” it read. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “Eighteen cellos, Frank’s Coffee?” I knew it was a must visit for the New Year.
It’s a cold, blustery day and I’m on my way to visit with Frank and Amy Beeson, the friendly, welcoming owners of Frank’s Coffee and Music Hall. It’s a perfect day for a whipped cream topped hot chocolate with a chunky brownie while we chat and I learn about their history.
Frank was living in New Jersey. After a visit to the Carolinas, he went home and packed his bags, knowing this was where he wanted to call home. Amy had grown up an Army brat when her parents finally settled in Greenville. Her mother opened an antique shop in Saluda and Amy commuted on weekends. Amy and Frank met one day at the Tryon Coffee shop and were married in 2002.
Amy continued to work in Saluda on weekends and when she saw a place available in the Depot, she opened a shop focusing on mid century modern furniture. “It’s her specialty,” Frank tells me.
Noticing the caboose sitting empty outside the depot, Amy thought it would be a perfect spot for a coffee shop. They quit their regular jobs and were in business. The caboose had an attached front porch. Frank had always been involved with music, playing the guitar since he was twelve. “The porch said ‘stage’ to me,” he smiles. And so their idea of serving a great cup of coffee and combining it with a venue for local musicians, took off.
“People would bring lawn chairs and sit out front listening to guitars and banjos, enjoying coffee,” he reminisces.
“Everything has its time,” Amy adds. “We were getting older. Our driveway was steep and slippery in the winter. The house was two stories. We decided it was time to move to where it was a little warmer and be on one floor. I had a couple booths in the antique mall in Inman, so Gramling seemed perfect.”
Of course being entrepreneurs in the past, they were alert to new opportunities. When they noticed the old general store in Gramling had a vacant spot, Amy and Frank knew it was the perfect setting for another coffee shop, this time adding a music hall.
“We leased it mid August and were open 30 days later,” Frank chuckles. “Then we had the ‘open mic’ idea. Thursday and Friday evening anyone can come in and play. We get guitar players, bass, banjo, even a flute player who plays with the Spartanburg Community Band.” Sometimes it’s Bluegrass, then some gospel and Hank Williams, with an occasional Jimmy Buffet and Johhny Cash to mix it up.
Most of the players come from a five-mile radius. Even though they often have never before played together, they adapt quickly. As Frank puts it, “Music is a language in and of itself. It has it’s own vocabulary and they all speak the same language.”
We discuss different instruments and musicians who drop by. Jay Mabry and his band offered one of the most unusual instruments to be played, a suitcase that became a drum. A trumpet player from Spartanburg playing Dixieland jazz stopped in. Frank has instruments available. A trombone, a keyboard, guitars, an upright bass, and a lap steel guitar await any players wanting to join in.
But don’t forget the coffee. Organic Ethiopian Harrar is the house blend. It’s freshly roasted and ground when ready to brew. Espressos, cappuccinos, lattes, mochas, and hot chai tea are all specialties. And I can vouch for the hot chocolate, brownies, and apple turnovers.
Thursday and Friday night are open mic. You never know who will walk in the door. They host a band Saturday at 2 p.m. “We’re still feeling our way,” Frank explains. “We have a strong faith and God has led us to where he wants us to be, doing what he wants us to do. We didn’t plan it. It all just happens.”
Right now they’re open Tuesday through Friday, 7 a.m. to noon, and Thursday and Friday nights from 5-9 p.m. On Saturday, it’s 5-7 p.m. The coffee shop is also available for clubs or business meetings.
Check their Facebook page “Franks-Coffee” for updates.