the edge coffeehouse
story and photo by Shaila Creekmore
Just across the street from the Arkansas State University campus is a little coffeehouse that brings together the quaintness of the South with cultures from around the world, while blending the academe of campus with the Jonesboro community.
The Edge Coffeehouse opened in March 2001 and was the only West Coast-style coffeehouse at the time in the area. Ann Williams opened the coffeehouse after two decades of working as an attorney, including 10 years in New York City. Several years after returning home to Jonesboro, members of Ann’s book club encouraged her to open a coffeehouse.
“I had always liked the idea of having a coffeehouse, but had just never pursued it,” said Williams. “I was a member of a book club, and we were always meeting in people’s homes. Everyone kept saying they wished there was a coffeehouse conducive to book clubs. I was saying at one of our meetings that my brother, Ben, had mentioned that the former Sigma Chi house would be a great place for a coffeehouse, and someone said they believed a (for sale) sign had just gone up.”
Williams purchased the house, which was built in 1925, and applied for rezoning. Prior to Williams purchasing the home, it had been purchased as a private home; the repair work became too much for the couple, who had again listed it on the market.
“I had to do a whole lot of work to it; a lot of renovation and restoration,” said Williams, who spent a year and a half restoring the house. “It had taken a pretty good beating. There were bricks missing from the chimney, for example.
One of our neighbors, Mrs. Lela Smith, who used to live behind the house, said she looked out one night and saw guys chipping away at the chimney. The (Sigma Chi) guys were taking souvenir bricks. Most of the siding was missing, as well.”
The previous owners had started to add a garage to the house, and Williams used the structure to construct the coffeehouse’s main kitchen. The home’s original kitchen is now used as a prep kitchen. The downstairs seating is an eclectic group of tables and chairs split into four separate rooms, one of which can be closed off for meetings. Williams has converted two of the closet spaces into study nooks, and seating is available on the large front porch
Upstairs, the coffeehouse has two rooms for meeting spaces Currently, the space is used on a regular basis by a chess club, a Scrabble club, language conversation groups, political and civic organizations and six book clubs. Williams said she welcomes any group to use the space by just calling and scheduling a time.
“I’ve always striven for it to be a town-to-town meeting place, a place to connect campus with the rest of Jonesboro,” said Williams.
The coffeehouse has also become a place to connect many different cultures, as the number of international students on ASU’s campus continues to increase.
“We have really come to have a cosmopolitan feel,” said Williams. “We’ve been blessed with an increase of international students who’ve brought a lot to this area, I think.”
With the varying tastes of both international and domestic students, Williams said the coffeehouse tries to keep a varied menu, including various vegetarian and vegan dishes.
“There has really been a turn toward vegetarian food from a combination of cultural, religious, environmental and health reasons,” she said. “We’ve really worked hard in trying to create that as one of our niches.”
A few of their favorite vegetarian dishes are the “Catcher in the Rye” for breakfast, which consists of veggie cream cheese, sprouts and egg served on rye bread; “East of Eden,” which is tomato, sprouts, avocado, cucumber and lettuce with pesto mayo on a wrap; and the veggie wrap, which is made with hummus, tomatoes, olives, sprouts, cucumber and lettuce.
The Edge’s pesto is made fresh by William’s mother, Marianne Williams, with fresh basil that she grows herself. The hummus is also made fresh, and several flavors are offered on various sandwiches, wraps and bagels.
Breakfast items are served each day until 11 a.m. and include bagels or toast with toppings such as fresh orange, honey and cream cheese, or eggs with a choice of ham, turkey or bacon topped with cheese. Omelets are also popular breakfast offerings and come with a choice of fillings and cheese, served with fruit and toast.
A menu of salads, quiche, grilled cheese, toasted and grilled sammies, wraps and soups are available throughout the day. Among the favorites are spinach quiche; “Todd’s Grilled Chicken” – named for William’s brother – which is a combination of chicken, ham, bacon and roasted tomatoes with peppercorn spread and provolone on sourdough; and “The Hobbitt,” a grilled sammie with bacon, tomato, sun-dried tomato, avocado, sprouts, lettuce and pesto spread on sourdough. A number of soup, sandwich and entries specials rotate each week.
The Edge offers a large menu of hot and cold drinks, including a bottomless cup of coffee, cappuccino, latte, milkshakes, Italian sodas and frozen drinks. A number of specialty drinks and steamers are available, such as Muddy Waters, an espresso with chocolate, caramel, hazelnut and steamed milk; The Love Shack, which is espresso, B-52 vitamin, honey, amaretto and steamed milk; Heming’s Way, a Kahlua and Irish Cream steamer; and Citizen Candy Cane, a white chocolate and peppermint steamer. Another favorite is the coffeehouse’s selection of loose leaf teas like Pillow Bliss, mango, jasmine green, gunpowder and satrupa Assam. Tea is available in-house by the cup or pot, or by the pound for home.
The Edge Coffeehouse, located at 1900 Aggie Road, is open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call 932-3114.