Something for Everyone

When I first visited Round Mountain, I knew it was good, and I knew people would show up. The fact that it has thrived as a business doesn’t surprise me one bit. What ultimately did surprise me, however, was the sheer variety of people to walk through their door.

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Now, I absolutely expected the hipsters and millennials. They are known specifically for frequenting chic little coffee shops. That’s kind of their thing.

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Pictured: A Millennial

I was also not taken aback by the tidal wave of college students who arrived in the afternoons with homework and studies, seeking sweet, caffeinated fuel.

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Maybe I was just new to the coffee shop world, but that was pretty much it. I thought the clientele would be mostly…people in their 20s, I guess. But no no. I was way off. As it turns out, tons of different sorts actually love coffee, and Round Mountain does a splendid job of attracting them.

Where do I even start?

How about folks over 20? I see men and women come in to talk business. Grandmothers sitting around a table having tea and a chit-chat. Parents who have clearly stopped by to take a break for themselves. There are plenty of individuals who go daily, who need their before or after-work pick-me-up. And of course, people of every age bring their friends there. It’s an optimal place to relax for awhile and catch up.

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But age is really too broad a category to go off of, because the diversity within the age groups is what’s really intriguing. Let me run through a few of them quickly, just to give you an idea of what I mean.

People come to Round Mountain to make partnerships, to promote their charities or businesses.

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Artists come to be seen and heard.

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(You’re seeing my art right now, valued reader, because RMC asked me to write for them).

People come for competitions.

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They come for romance.

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They come to do their own thing.

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They come for Bible studies, too, I’ve noticed. Usually, it’s a pair of girls or a pair of boys, Bibles and notebooks out, discussing away. I saw a woman recently who was chaperoning a date between two very young teenagers. Customers are encouraged to bring games, bring coloring books; they watch movies, they have trivia nights. Essentially, the options at Round Mountain are limitless, and so are the kinds of people who come to enjoy it. Anyone can do just about whatever they like, and with a tasty beverage close at hand.

Looking this post over, I feel like I’ve barely managed to scratch the surface, but the point I’m trying to make is that RMC is a place where people come together.

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Doesn’t it just look so inviting?

Going there as often as I do, I understand now why people-watching is considered a pastime. It’s the best place in Conway to do it.

 

 

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The Care for Quality

Round Mountain Coffee puts maximum effort into everything it brings to the table, but if anything were to be at the top of that list, I would say it’s their dedication to quality, both in their products and their customer service.

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Let’s start with the coffee first, since that’s really what everything revolves around. Round Mountain has a fantastic variety, not only of specialty and seasonal beverages (I could do an entire post just about those), but also different blends and roasts and such. Honestly speaking, it’s a lot more than I can even truly appreciate, because I’m still not to the point where I can drink coffee without it being all creamy and chocolatey. But for the hardcore café connoisseur, they have everything you could want. And even more impressively, they do their homework, making sure that they use coffee beans that are ethically sourced.

I asked Kyle, one of the owners (and top notch barista), about where their coffee comes from, and he had this to say: “We buy through a distributor who makes sure that it’s all ethically sourced. The coffee industry is kind of notorious for mistreatment of the farmers–slavery, child labor, etc. Our distributor goes down there and checks on that for us so that we can be sure to only buy from people who treat their workers fairly.” (This quote is paraphrased from my memory, but it sums up what he said). It’s also worth noting that he was happy I asked and more than willing to answer my questions.

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A vast assortment of delicious and responsibly-made drinks would pretty much be enough to draw in customers, but they don’t stop there. Presentation is another thing they care about. The above picture is a good example. My hot drink and my husband’s cold one alongside a lovely little arrangement of fresh flowers, which is what they had out on all the tables last summer. The mugs, glasses, and decor are all unique and pleasing to the eye, and there is definitely something about drinking out of a nice cup that makes the beverage taste that much better.

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I don’t remember who, but one lovely barista doodled some flowers on my mug one day. She didn’t have to do it, but it was a delightful extra touch. I can tell you from experience that extra touches are very common in this particular coffee shop. They care. You can so obviously tell that they care. You’re meant to enjoy yourself when you go in, and that’s precisely why I go.

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But I’m not done yet, because it gets more personal than that. The baristas know my name; they know my usual, and when I walk in, I’m greeted like a friend every time. One very kind barista, Austin, gave me my mocha for free when he found out it was my birthday, and then he wrote a big “Happy Birthday” all over my cup. He was also the one to take my order when I was picking up breakfast and coffee for my friend who’d just had surgery. He asked her name and wrote a sweet little “Get Well” note on hers. I wish I’d thought to take a picture of that one. It’s the things like that that get me, right here *places hand over heart*. It’s that sort of warmth and kindness which sums up the soul of Round Mountain Coffee.

The quality goes all the way to the core.

 

Café en Vogue

I could go on and on about how this coffee shop benefits the people who visit there, both as a community and as individuals. In this post, however, I’m going to focus on a more personal interest of mine: the fashion of Round Mountain.

Now, with a few exceptions, the examples you are about to see are mostly of myself. This is because I didn’t have the time to get anyone else’s permission to take their picture (nor the sudden ability to just walk up to random people and say words).

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Hello there, me.

Above, you can see I’ve got the black bandana, the Celtic knot earrings… Out of frame, there’s a big, sparkly skull on my top. I was going very “witchy woman” that day.

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And yet, in these more recent photos, I’m basically doing the opposite. Bright colors, sitting by the windows in the sunlight. I was like a beautiful, vivid flower. It’s this kind of variation that Round Mountain has helped bring out in me. I experiment with my look all the time now, partly because I like being the interesting young woman hanging out in the chic little café, and partly because I get so inspired by the other people who come and go.

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Above and to the left, you can see my gorgeous sister. That is a selfie she took at Round Mountain on a rainy spring afternoon, and it is a perfect example of her own classic style. To the right is my best friend, a picture I took of her just because I thought she looked so damn fabulous that day. And while I don’t have photos of any other customers this time around, I can tell you that a huge portion of the clientele is equally as beautiful and fascinating as these two ladies.

I’d like to lay some serious appreciation on the baristas as well.

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Thanks to the RMC Facebook page, I have a photo of these two, shifting the coolness gauge into MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE.

Sydney and Amanda are two out of several totally awesome staff members at Round Mountain, and every one of them has their own special version of that classic coffee-maker style. Because would it really be a chic little café if the baristas weren’t all sort of trendy? I mean, let’s be real. They complete the vibe of the place, on top of being super nice, welcoming people (who make the best coffee I’ve ever had).

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(That’s me with my dad in the middle picture, FYI. And I bet he’s reading this…Hi, Dad!)

Basically, Round Mountain Coffee is where I go to be every version of myself. If I feel like I look great one day, or even if I’m just trying out something different, that’s where I like to showcase it. I joke with my husband, like, “If I didn’t wear the cute outfit to Round Mountain, did I even really wear it?”

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I call this one Casual Goth.

My love of coffee shop fashion started out as just enjoying the RMC vibes. Soon after, I realized how much fun people-watching is in there. The variety is incredible. Everybody is so different, and yet so on point. From there, I grew to love experimenting with my own style. I started to put more effort into myself, getting a feel for outfits that I might not have tried on otherwise, and in a way that’s helped me get to know myself better.

And I know I’m not the only person who’s experienced this. Too many people who clearly look good on purpose go to Round Mountain. I’m sure at least a few of them can relate to me here. And to those people, I have this to say: keep it up! Keep rocking your sundresses and crazy socks and high-waisted pants. Keep dying your hair different colors and working the man-bun. Keep dressing way more masculine or feminine than you’re “supposed to.” Look exactly how you want. It’s all fantastic!

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I’ll be keeping it up along with you. Cheers, everyone!

 

Cultivating a Community

Round Mountain Coffee, in the relatively short time it’s been around, has done everything in its power to help the surrounding community flourish. From promoting small businesses to hosting weekly social events, the owners and staff have worked hard to brand themselves as both a support system to the local economy and a patron of the arts. They do a little bit of everything, and are always open to new ideas, which is honestly why I probably won’t manage to cover it all in this one blog post. In any case, let me give you a small notion of their influence.

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Round Mountain has partnered with non-profits like Bethlehem House and City of Hope Outreach, raising money to help provide resources for the less fortunate among us–something we should all care about.

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Not only can you count on having your beverage made with quality local ingredients, you can also get a taste of products from other nearby companies. There is always a selection of pastries from Patticakes Bakery available for purchase with your tea or coffee, for example. (I can tell you from experience that Patticakes is good stuff; they did my wedding cake, and it was perfect). Round Mountain also hosts events in which up-and-coming businesses can show off their wares. One such afternoon saw the coffee shop crammed with people excited to try the ice cream from Roll It! Frozen Cream. You can see Alex Cottrell showing my mother his skills in the picture above.

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Something else that they do often–and this is quite possibly my favorite–is encourage the growth of Conway’s art scene. Almost every Friday night, they have local musicians playing as people sip their coffee. At least once a year, they have an open mic event, allowing those with poems and stories to tell the rare opportunity to be heard. (They’ll forever have a special place in my heart for that). And you can always get an idea of what’s going on in the realm of theatre by checking out the posters they put up on the side of their fridge.

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On top of all that, this café does plenty of its own thing. They have classes on the various elements of coffee-making, which they are capable of because they have baristas skilled enough to teach that subject. They recently tried out hosting a morning yoga class, quite successfully I might add, because they are fortunate enough to have people talented in that arena within the Round Mountain family. I never really know what they’ll do next, because they’re open to everything. They actively attempt to better themselves, to test new things, to draw on the interests of all their customers. It’s not just that Round Mountain has helped the surrounding locality thrive. It has become the epicenter of its own buzzing little community.

And it’s one that I, personally, am very happy to belong to.

 

Those Coffee Shop Vibes

Excellent coffee aside, there are quite a few reasons I go to Round Mountain. One of the biggest ones is the atmosphere. And I don’t just mean that I like their decor.

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Though I do really dig the tiny pumpkins they put out in the fall.

What I mean is actually two things: the physical and the spiritual. For the physical, well, the setup is perfect. Round Mountain manages to be equal parts chic and cozy. It’s the quintessential locale of the Millennial and the Hipster. It’s the place you go, you wear something that says “I don’t care, but I look great anyway,” you set up your laptop, and you sit there and look cool. I admit to you freely that I visit all the time just for the The Aesthetic™.

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I mean, look at this. Who wouldn’t want this picture on their Instagram?

I feel like the in-style version of myself when I go to Round Mountain. I take pictures there, and I feel like people would want to see them. And talking about feelings brings me neatly into my second point. Round Mountain Coffee nurtures my soul.

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As well as my need to look cool.

From the moment this place opened its doors, I have felt welcomed there with open arms. There are too many businesses that make you feel like you’re just the next consumer moving through the line (*cough* Starbucks *cough*). Round Mountain has a vibe that says, “Come in. Bring your friends. Stay awhile.” Anytime I’m stressed, that’s where I want to go. It has an aura of tranquility that has yet to be matched in the city of Conway, at least in my experience. I definitely consider going there to be part of my routine for good mental health.

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Self-care.

Honestly speaking, we all love that confidence boost that comes when we know we’re doing the trendy thing. But the feeling of acceptance and comfort that I receive, without fail, every single time I go to Round Mountain Coffee, that’s why I keep going.

A Regular at Round Mountain

I had my very first mocha latte on a cloudy afternoon. I was deep in the midst of planning my wedding at the time, and my dad and I were meeting with the man who would be the MC at my reception. I remember being absolutely charmed by the fact that my beverage arrived in a real mug–I had only ever had coffee in those paper to-go cups–and even more so by the latte art, which happened to be in the shape of a heart. The entire experience was steeped in romance, and it set the tone for my future enjoyment of coffee.

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Fast forward a bit, I find myself happily married, and Round Mountain Coffee opens its doors a mere five minute drive away from our home. Fast forward a bit more, and Round Mountain has become a significant part of my life, and their excellent coffee is only where it begins.

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I started going there out of curiosity and convenience. It was a cool new place close by; I wanted to check it out. I discovered right away that the mocha lattes there were better than anywhere else, and I was sold. This was my new favorite spot, and I visited my old favorites less and less. What really caught my attention, however, was the way Round Mountain so purposefully cultivated its own flourishing community. Up until that point, a coffee shop only had one function in my eyes. That is, it was just a place to grab some coffee. Then, they hosted their first open mic night.

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When I was in college, I wrote poetry, among other things. Sometimes it was for a class, sometimes it was for myself, and if I felt good about a poem either way, I would go to a reading, make myself stand in front of the microphone, and share it with the other Creative Writing majors who happened to show up. I always looked back on those times fondly, in spite of my stage fright, because no matter how well I did, at least I was in a room full of people who shared my passions. The open mic night at Round Mountain blew every single one of those readings out of the water. I don’t know how to describe it, except to say that nobody reading or listening that night was there just because of school. This was a community gathering to appreciate art for art’s sake, and even a poet like myself finds it challenging to express just how much that means to me as an artist.

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They’ve had other events since then. More than I could count. Charities, classes, live music on Friday nights, the list could go on and on, and I’ve found myself having a bit of a social life because of it all. It’s no easy task to coax a shy creature like me into public view, but that’s just the thing. I feel safe at Round Mountain. I feel as though I’m among friends every time I go there.

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No matter what is going on in my life at any given time, I can always manage to relax at RMC. The atmosphere is comfortable and easy-going, even at their busiest times of day, and I use it a lot for stress relief. There is something inexplicably soothing about sitting down, sipping a delicious beverage, and spending some quality time with whomever you came in with. I get to catch up with my dad that way, for example, now that I’m no longer living at home. And even when it’s just me, myself, and I, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had in people-watching. Such a variety of people go to Round Mountain, and many of them are delightfully trendy. I take pleasure in noticing how people style themselves, and I think plenty of customers and staff like to bring their A-game to the coffee shop. I know I do.

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There’s a lot of good in going to Round Mountain Coffee. I get the satisfaction of supporting local artists, musicians, and businesses. They support charities and noble causes; they give as much as they get in their community, and coffee fuels it all. Coffee is their art. It feels good to be a part of all that. I’m recognized there, and warmly welcomed, as a friend and as someone who has something to contribute. As a writer, I can say that’s a rare and special gift. As a customer, I admit there’s no better feeling than being greeted by “Hey Courtney. You want your usual?”. And for me, there will always be a whisper of romance in every mocha latte.