Jessica Bergeron has only lived in Coastal Virginia for three years, but she probably knows more about the local coffee scene than most lifetime residents.
Bergeron is a mother of two, originally from Ohio, and she’s always been a coffee lover. And like many who come to Coastal Virginia, she is from a military family. When she moved to Virginia Beach, she took her love of coffee to the next level and became a part-time barista at Astraea Coffee, located near the Virginia Beach courthouse.
Bergeron is a natural conversationalist, so it didn’t take her long to establish rapport with the customers at Astraea. She found herself frequently conversing with customers about the various local coffee shops in Coastal Virginia. And she quickly discovered a trend.
“I’d be talking to a customer who lives in Norfolk, and I’d ask them if they knew about Coalescence because it’s right in their neck of the woods, and they’d have no clue they were so close to amazing coffee,” Bergeron says.
She found that many of her customers were unfamiliar with other local coffee shops she’d come to know and love. So, in late 2021, Bergeron reached out to 18 coffee shops with an idea that would help solve this problem: a coffee trail.
The idea of a food- or beverage-themed trail is not new to Virginia: there are bourbon trails, wine trails—even oyster trails. Often, these trails are organized by tourism organizations or local business interests. But Bergeron does not represent a tourism organization, and she doesn’t own a coffee shop. She simply saw a need for shining a light on local coffee businesses and went all in to make it happen.
“It’s great for the coffee shops, because it’s pretty hands-off for them to participate,” Bergeron says. “And it benefits them by increasing their visibility and bringing new customers in who might not otherwise have known about them.”
By April, 10 local coffee shops agreed to participate in the spring coffee trail. It was a six-week experiment, and the response Bergeron received exceeded her expectations. So, for the summer, Bergeron looked to bring on even more shops. The Summer Coastal Coffee Trail has 13 participating coffee shops and runs from May 1 through August 15.
The idea was simple and low-cost, but it filled a need in the community: connecting coffee-lovers with local shops all over the 757.
“Most people want to support local, but they don’t always know where those great local places are,” Bergeron says.
A trail card can be found at any of the participating locations (see sidebar list) in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake. Customers who visit all 13 shops within the three-month timeframe receive a free gift, which they can redeem at any of the participating shops. For the summer trail, the free gift is a glass mug with the Coastal Coffee Trail logo. Bergeron plans to keep the gifts seasonally appropriate, so participants can look forward to a cooler-weather option for the fall trail.
For Bergeron, the coffee trail is all about building a sense of community and encouraging people to connect with fellow coffee lovers.
“My family is military, so we’ve moved so many times. And every new place I went, I’d try to find a local coffee shop,” Bergeron says. “I know what it’s like to be brand new to a place and feel like you’re on an island. But what I found was there were always people out there who loved coffee. I’ve met so many of my close friends in local coffee shops. And I hope this coffee trail helps others who are new to this area to find that special community.”
Coastal Coffee Trail
17 Hands Coffee
Lynnhaven Coffee Company
Bad Ass Coffee
Pale Horse Coffee
Battle Grounds Coffeehouse & Grill
Voyager Cold Brew Coffee
COVA Brewing Company
ALL IMAGES BY YOONIE L. VIA YELP