New Coffee Shop Brewing in Downtown Wheeling
WHEELING – Downtown Wheeling’s distinctive Flatiron Building on Main Street is now home to a coffee shop that its owners hope will brew some lively conversations.
“Our main goal is to create a space that welcomes the community and gives people a forum to express themselves, to have debate and conversation,” said Nate Lucey, co-owner of Flatiron Coffee Co.
The shop, which offers various coffees, espresso drinks, cold brew and teas, opened Wednesday with an official grand opening set for Saturday.
After sitting empty for several years, the triangular building is now occupied by the coffee shop on the first floor and luxury apartments on its upper floors. Building owner Kevin Duffin worked to renovate the structure from “top to bottom” since he bought it in 2014, he said.
“We’re very pleased to have somebody in the building and are crossing our fingers that the community supports these guys and their cause,” Duffin said of Lucey and co-owner Aaron Simmons.
“Everybody does a little bit of helping Wheeling come back and move forward. These guys are doing their part and we’re excited for them.”
Lucey said he and Simmons fell in love with the building when they first toured it. The unique building, erected in 1896, contains safes once used by the Wheeling Steel & Iron Co. and a peacock-shaped window on the second floor — the inspiration for the coffee shop’s logo.
“We came down and when we looked at the brick and the exposed walls and the vault and so much history in the place, we fell in love with it,” Lucey said. “It’s so cool to have a business on Main Street.”
Now, the two are hoping that the coffee shop functions as a place for people to learn about the coffee that they order.
“We’re big fans of coffee, obviously, and I also think there’s not as much education on coffee and tea,” Lucey said. “I think most people don’t know what they’re ordering when they go to their big franchise coffee shop. You don’t know what’s in a latte.”
“So we’re trying to educate and also learn and explore new things with coffee drinks and milk drinks,” he continued. “And also just provide a place for people to come and have conversations and have community and meet new people.”
The shop, which also sells baked goods, juice and fruit, plans to serve lunch and add outdoor seating in the future. Duffin said the city previously approved extending outdoor seating on the building’s South Street side and he hopes to have such an area with tables, chairs and umbrellas ready in the spring.
“It was a grand lady that was closed up for about 15 years,” Duffin said of the building. “Every building that comes back to life is better for a downtown community. … My wife and I have done our little piece to try to help.”
The company Riverside Iron Works built the structure as an office building in the 1890s, and it was owned by the Wheeling Steel & Iron Co. from 1907 until 1920, according to Friends of Wheeling. Several entities occupied the building throughout the 20th century, and it most notably served as City Hall in the mid-1950s while the City-County Building was being constructed. Duffin added that his apartment tenants are happy with living in the downtown building, in part due to convenient access to parking in the Intermodal Center directly north of it. The city allowed Duffin to construct a small causeway connecting the building to the garage’s fifth floor, he said.
In other words, “we punched a hole in both buildings and put a door on,” Duffin explained.
“We’re just excited and ask for community support of these guys,” Duffin said of Flatiron Coffee. “I think it’s a great thing and I think they have some great ideas. I hope they will be successful.”
In addition, the shop will offer a private event space on its second floor, featuring the peacock window. Lucey added that people are welcome to come to Flatiron Coffee to have conversations.
“I just don’t think that there’s enough person-to-person conversation happening. We don’t go out of our way to have conversations,” Lucey said. “Aaron and I really really want to create a space that is open for that, that we can learn from each other when we disagree. That’s such an important thing and I think it will make our city better.”
The shop at 1509 Main St. is open from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.