Anatomy of a Chalkart Wall
The Anatomy of a Chalk Art Wall
If you’ve ever sat and had a meal here at Gracie’s, then you know that the walls are covered in chalk boards filled with doodles and artwork and quotes. I love words. I love the way they can stir up emotion within you. I love the way they look and sound. And I love how some words and sentiments can speak to the soul.
But my love of chalk art came way before it was “trendy” to have chalkboards all over your home. My mom was a trendsetter. When chalkboard paint was very first available, my mom painted an entire wall of our kitchen in chalkboard paint. Part of the wall had our family calendar on it, but a large portion of the wall was just for my little sister and I to draw on. And we would spend hours creating masterpieces, playing school house, or just playing hangman. It was my intention when we started out to fill the walls of our little cafe with chalkboards, full of quotes and sayings that would feed your soul the way Jim’s food would feed your belly. As we’ve grown, we continued that chalkboard tradition, and the task of filling the walls becomes both difficult and therapeutic. So today I thought I would take you through the anatomy of a chalk art wall here at Gracie’s, and how I create the walls you see when you come in for a meal or a cup of coffee.
Out with the old, to make room for the new! First, I have to wash away the old chalk art so I have a blank canvas to work with. This can be both bittersweet and exciting. Bittersweet because sometimes there are quotes I really love that I’m going to miss, or specific chalk art designs I was really proud of. And exciting because to me, there’s nothing better than a fresh, clean, blank canvas. The possibilities that await a blank chalkboard are exhilarating to me.
The tools make the job all the more beautiful… They say a poor workman blames his tools. But when it comes to art, sometimes you just can’t get the desired look or effect without the right tools. For me, that means I have to start out with the right kind of chalk. I prefer Crayola, and specifically, the artists 24 pack that I’ve only been able to find locally at the Flower and Craft Warehouse in Blue Ball. The colors in the 24 pack are so bold and vibrant. I also have plenty of packs of the standard white chalk around as well! You can never have too much chalk in my book!
I also keep a damp rag at hand to help clean up any mistakes. And a ladder, because I’m quite short and the final product will look more evenly spaced and level if I can be at eye level with each line of text or doodle.
Choosing a theme! Depending on the events coming up, or the season or holidays upon us, I choose a theme for the wall. This theme will then help me determine the colors I use and the quotes I choose.
Then comes the fun part- actually drawing! Sometimes I take the time to sketch out what I want to put up on the walls. If it’s a large undertaking, like the Christmas mural of 2015, or the Up! movie scenes I recreated for Jim and my 5th wedding anniversary vow renewal, I will sketch out ahead of time what I want and where. (Check out our chalk art photo album on our Facebook page for more pictures of chalk art and quotes!) But more often than not, something will strike my fancy, or I’ll get an inspiration and just start drawing.
I get asked a lot where I get all my quotes and sayings from. A lot of them actually come from social media. If someone posts a meme or quote that I like on Facebook or Instagram, I’ll save a screenshot of it to the camera roll on my phone. Then when I’m drawing a new chalkboard, I can just scroll through my pictures for the quotes that have been speaking to me most recently. I also have a couple quote books that customers have given me over the years that I can go to when I’m really stuck for that perfect quote to fill a hole in my designs. And as a last resort, I’ll check the photos I’ve taken of past chalkboards and bring back something that maybe hasn’t been up in a long while.
A lot of what I do, though, is honestly just drawn free hand and not really planned. I like the boards to be colorful, and I like a mix of attributed and anonymous quotes on a wide range of subjects. From motivational to scripture, funny to touching, and of course plenty of quotes about food and bacon- there’s sure to be something for everyone.
Last month I chose to re-do a chalkboard that’s been up pretty much since we opened. I erased the “About Us” in the foyer to make room for a map showing where some of our food and products come from. We source as much local as possible, and I think it’s time we show you guys just exactly how much we get from Lancaster County and Pennsylvania. So keep an eye on our social and media and this blog, as we continue to take you on tours of our favorite local vendors. And if you haven't already, check out the posting below about our local coffee vendors!
Why Local? COFFEE!
We toured our local coffee vendors to bring you a glimpse into
why supporting local matters!
If you haven't been following us for very long, or haven't had a chance to talk to us or our staff about what makes Gracie's special, let me set the stage a little bit. We do everything here at Gracie's from scratch, and we try to source as much local as possible. This summer, Jim and Gracie want to take you on a tour of our local vendors that we work with to show you where your food comes from, why it's so important to support local, and why we care so much about the food and beverages we serve you.
This week, we're starting off with coffee! The two companies we really feel are killing it in the coffee game locally took us on tours of their facilities, showed us around, and sat down to chat with us about why they love what they do, why their coffee is the best, and why local matters.
First stop- Lancaster County Coffee Roasters!
Jim, Gracie, Hannah, and Baby JW all piled into the car and headed down to Lancaster County Coffee Roasters facility on Ross St. in Lancaster
Scott Smith, who owns of Lancaster County Coffee Roasters along with his father, greeted us last week at their facility on Ross St. in the city to show us how they roast, blend and package their amazing coffees, and to chat all things coffee. First, a little history on this awesome company: Scott's father purchased the company in 2002, and at the time it was strictly a distribution company. Scott and his brother came on board not long after, and wanted to do something that would help them stand out in the market- so they decided to start experimenting with roasting their own coffee. It allowed them to control the product they were sending out. They began to roast and package their own blends. Since then, they have also added retail locations in Lancaster's Central Market, and York's Eastern Market.
Scott took us on a tour of their facility, which looks deceptively small from the outside considering how many thousands of pounds of coffee leave this place every week.
Funny side story- I asked if it was alright that I was bringing JW with us, and Scott's reply was, "Sure! As long as he doesn't mind a dusty, dirty warehouse!" Well, let me tell you, that was the cleanest warehouse I have ever seen! Their facility, though seemingly small, not only gets the job done, it was very clean and organized. Not a stray coffee bean to be seen!
Scott shows us the green coffee beans before they are roasted. They'll roast about 8-9 skid loads of these beans each week.
So, they roast a lot of coffee... Scott said they roast anywhere from 1,000-1,500 pounds of coffee each day! But don't let that fool you, they are still a true small roaster- they have just one roaster, a beautiful, bright red machine that sits in the center of the first warehouse. They roast about 50 pounds of coffee beans at a time. So each batch is truly a small roast. They also package everything on site right there as well. Doing it this way ensures maximum freshness. The coffee we get delivered every Tuesday was roasted within just a day or two.
Their roasting machine working on a batch of coffee... The smell was enough to
drive even a non-coffee drinker mad! It was intoxicating!
The other half of their warehouse facility is dedicated to their service department. There are shelves and shelves of all kinds of coffee brewing and dispensing equipment. This is the part of their business that Scott tells us really sets their business apart. For restaurants that use Lancaster County Coffee Roasters coffee, they offer free equipment and servicing. I can speak from personal experience that these guys are great at getting in and getting you back up and running in no time!
One of the last things I asked Scott was his opinion on the coffee culture in Lancaster. If you're not local, you may not realize just how many roasters and coffee shops are here in this small city- it's a lot. Sometimes Hannah and I joke that a new coffee place opens every 6 months! So I was curious how Scott feels about all the competition.
His response? "I think it's great! The more the better. Everyone brings something different or unique- and there's room for everyone at the table."
I just thought to myself, WOW! That's exactly Jim and my philosophy on new restaurants. The more the merrier! More of anything in a field, whether coffee or restaurants, is good for the local economy. And with all these options, you're bound to become a coffee drinker yet!
My final thought on our trip to Lancaster County Coffee Roasters was this: Scott is really great at giving his staff all the credit. He talked a lot about how a majority of their success was because he let his people just be good at what they do. And I think the results speak for themselves.
Second stop of the day- Twin Valley Coffee Co.!
This tiny little gazebo on the side of the road along Rt. 23 out in Elverson (think Morgantown Walmart) is deceptive! Don't believe me? Stop out for a visit and you'll see what I mean. From the outside it doesn't look big enough to hold a coffee shop, on the inside it couldn't be more charming. And the coffee? It made a beleiver out of me, and I don't even like coffee! Hahaha... But Hannah insisted I try one of their Iced Toddy's back in February, and she and I have been sneaking away to Morgantown whenever we can make the excuse ever since.
This small operation puts out big flavor. I sat down with the owners, a wonderful husband and wife team, to find out more about how they came to roast coffee and what makes their product unique, and had a really great time getting to know them. Lynn Burkholder, and his wife Lynne, are about as adorable as you can get. They make a pretty great team, and were gracious enough to take time out of their schedules to sit down with me and tell me their story and chat cold brew coffee.
It began just about 12 years ago at a dinner party... a friend was roasting his own beans and brought some to dinner. They ground them up for after dinner coffee, and an idea was planted. It wasn't long before Lynn started experimenting with roasting. In 2010, they started selling their roasted beans at the Elverson farmer's market. But when the season was over, their now loyal customers wanted to know where they could get their coffee during the off season. They began to retail their coffee with local markets, like Shady Maple. As they continued to grow their company, the opportunity landed in their lap to put up a roadside gazebo to sell coffee drinks. In 2012, the Twin Valley Gazebo opened it's little doors. It was a unique idea that worked out quite perfectly!
I quickly learned as we chatted that they aren't as little of an operation as you might think by looking at the roadside gazebo. They sell their unique cold brew and coffee roasts from Philadelphia to Lancaster and beyond. It isn't out of the ordinary to have a customer drive from an hour away for one of their cold brews. So why the radical loyalty? Lynn says it's because of how he makes their cold brew, a process that has 7 unique steps totally different from what other people are doing. Curious? Well you don't have to drive all the way to Elverson to find out if it's as good as everyone says! This summer, we're proud to offer Twin Valley cold brew coffee on Nitro tap here at Gracie's!
Hannah poses with an Iced Toddy, Twin Valley's signature drink!
I asked Lynn what their focus was at Twin Valley, and without hesitation he replied, "Innovation!" From being one of the first in the country to put cold brew on a nitro tap, to the Nitro Cold Brew Lemonade on their drink menu- Twin Valley Coffee is always on the front edge of the coffee business, staying ahead of the trends. It was obvious to me, from our short conversation, that Lynn was passionate about this business, and about creating the highest quality products possible. And really, that's all it takes sometimes- a passion for quality, a passion for what you do, a passion to be better.
Ultimately, that's why I love both Lancaster County Coffee Roasters and Twin Valley Coffee- I got to spend a day with Hannah and Jim talking to some people who were passionate about what they do, who were committed to excellence. That kind of passion and commitment is something you can taste. And what's more- they are people who live right here in this little part of planet Earth, people that we have an opportunity to support and share in what they are trying to accomplish. That's why local is important- it's about people. It's about supporting not just the owners, but the employees that work for them. Supporting people who are good at what they do. Supporting passion. So skip Starbucks just for one day and visit Lancaster County Coffee Roasters at the Lancaster Central Market, or go for a lovely country drive out to Elverson to see the adorable Coffee Gazebo. (Or just visit Gracie's to get both at once!) You won't regret the amazing coffee, and you for sure won't regret supporting local men and women who are putting out a quality product.
Follow these amazing companies online!
FOODIE REPORT: Food Trends in 2017
We're huge foodies over here at Gracie's on West Main, and we just wanted to take a couple minutes to share with our awesome followers some food trends forecasted for 2017.
First up- Spicy Food! Now we've always been fans of spicy. Our Spicy Hash and our Blasian Grilled Cheese are both very popular menu items, so I think you all must be fans as well! But we're excited to explore more of this spicy trend. In fact, we have an amazing Jambalaya Hash coming to you this weekend (3/11-3/12)! So order a glass of milk and get ready to jump on the spicy train! (was that too cheesey? lol...)
The second one I want to talk about is the return of full-fat foods. Nutritionists are now starting to recognize that perhaps the sugar and processed foods are what have led to our country's obesity epidemic, and not fat. Real food is better than processed. Butter is better than "butter-flavored" spread. Whole milk and full fat yogurts are "in". And things like avocado and nut-butters are still on-trend. Well this is one trend we've been ready and waiting for! We use real butter every time we cook your eggs, and on all our toast. We use bacon fat for our homefries instead of a butter-flavored oil on the grill. We feature avocado on multiple salads, avocado toast, and sandwiches. And you better believe Hannah piles on the butter and heavy cream in her desserts! It may not be low-fat, low-calorie, or sugar-free... but you everything here is made with real ingredients you can pronounce, and made fresh, from scratch. Sometimes real food in moderation is better than filling up on low-calorie substitutes full of ingredients you can't pronounce and were probably cooked up in some lab. :)
And lastly, let's talk about the trend of online ordering. More and more people are jumping on the Amazon bandwagon and offering delivery to your door. Loads of services have popped up in recent years and months where you can have all the ingredients and recipes for a world-class culinary masterpiece delivered to you weekly so you can cook like a pro at home. Now I'm not knocking cooking at home or expanding your family's food horizons at all! But while online shopping numbers go up, some online retailers are creating brick and mortor stores! Bottom line- we still crave that human connection. So don't forget to come visit us between your Blue Apron or Hello Fresh at home meals and say hi! I know JW would love a visit!
Get out of the City!
The only reason to come to Leola...
If you’ve never been to our little restaurant, or had the chance to meet us, allow me to begin by introducing ourselves! My name is Gracie, and along with my amazing hubby, Jim, we own this sweet little restaurant in Leola called Gracie’s on West Main. (Well, maybe not so little anymore, but I’m getting ahead of myself…)
Jim and Gracie, owners of Gracie's on West Main
We opened in June of 2013, with just a couple dimes to rub together and a dream that maybe we could make something of this beautiful old building we found in little old Leola, Pennsylvania. My husband has always been in the restaurant business, in some form or another, for a little over 20 years. I guess you could say he always knew this was where he was meant to be. He is a man of many talents, but if you’ve ever had the pleasure of having a meal cooked by him, you know that his true genius is in the kitchen.
I never really started out wanting to be in the restaurant business. I went to college and double majored in Latin and History. I graduated in 2008, right when the recession hit, and I joke that for my generation, a bachelors of arts in history qualifies you to be a barista. Because that’s where I ended up after several temp jobs and a failed attempt at hotel sales. It was after a few years of running a cafe in Strasburg that I realized I wanted more, and could do more. Jim was stuck in a rut in his sales job in the spring of 2013, when we decided to go out on a limb and see if we could make a go of it in a little tiny spot out in Leola. Unlike Jim, I fell into this business by accident... and kinda by accident I fell in love with it.
Our original space in June of 2013, with a very tiny kitchen and seating for about16!
When we started out nearly 4 years ago, we only had about 400 square feet and seating for 16. We thought we’d be a little cafe with counter service and a booming coffee and bakery business. But very quickly, Jim’s amazing menu grew and so did our following. Flash forward nearly 4 years, and several expansions later- we now have seating for almost 150 and a much larger kitchen than the little two burner hot plate and tiny panini grill we started with!
One of our newer dining areas. One of the things I love best about this old building is the character! The old wood trim, the exposed brick, and the history!
Jim likes to joke with people when they say that they never come to Leola,”Well we’re the only reason to come here!” It’s kind of true though… Leola is a lovely little community, but we lack a quaint downtown like Lititz. And the major points of interest for our little town have disappeared over the years. There used to be a great farmer’s market here that unfortunately burned down sometime in the 70’s or 80’s (no one can quite seem to give me an exact time frame- but if you know more I'd love to hear it! I absolutely love learning about the local history around here). There used to be a Stauffer’s grocery store, and a large family restaurant. We were a destination along the historic and classic Rt. 23. But anymore, we seem to be a town that people whiz through on their way to points further east like New Holland or Morgantown.
The truth is, we are only 7 miles from downtown Lancaster and less than a 10 minute drive! We’re so close to the hustle and bustle of the big city, but with all the charm of small town Lancaster county. But our real draw is simple- amazing and unique food made fresh from scratch, an inviting atmosphere with chalk art covering the walls, and a warm and friendly staff eager to make your visit special.
Our Spicy Hash (photo cred @andannabelle Instagram) ~part of our breakfast all day!
If you’ve never been to Gracie’s, then I invite you to come and check us out, at least once. And if you have been here before, then I challenge you to bring a friend who’s never been and show them how special we can be "way out here" in Leola. There’s no better time than spring to get out of the city and explore the local treasures hiding just a few miles outside the city limits.