With over 50 local coffee shops in the Scenic City alone, coffee has become its own subculture that has spread and affected the ambience of Chattanooga. Not only do these shops act as a social space for the spread of art and ideas, but many have their hand in community outreach as well.
“Coffee itself is communal by nature,” says Matt Busby, Director of The Camp House. The Camp House is a multifaceted coffee shop and event space that exists to “steward the common good through hospitality, culture, and education.”
Throughout its nine years in Chattanooga, The Camp House has tried to revitalize the area by offering a social hub for people to gather and hosting many events to promote art and innovation. “Coffee shops are this incredible collision spaces of different kinds of people and it’s a diversity that you see in very few other places in Chattanooga. You see them in restaurants but it’s not the place where those expressions of who they are and what they’re doing, what they are about comes out,” said Busby.
However, Busby isn’t the only one seeing coffee’s effect on culture; Tess Brandon, a customer and partner with Together cafe, also recognizes coffee’s ability to influence a culture. She believes it has a lot to do with the people, “lots of millennials and hipsters” creating this unique atmosphere.
Other people, like Chatt Design director Eric Myers, see Chattanooga’s coffee scene as a way to bridge divisions. He says it seems as though we are constantly confronted with things that divide us. “But we have to remember there are really easy things that bring us together – music, food, and coffee. Many of us are starting to realize that in order to listen and do our work better for people, we have to utilize some of those basic understandings. Sometimes just a little bit of music, a little bit of food, a little bit of beverage, can lower the tensions, build trust, and have real conversations.”
These conversations foster relationships, and in turn, community and culture in Chattanooga. This culture doesn’t just live inside the walls of a coffee shop, it extends into community outreach that’s impact goes beyond coffee itself.
The Camp House
Outside of coffee, The Camp House’s focus is on entrepreneurship, innovation, and art. Because The Camp House doubles as an event space, they are able to do even more for the community. “We host a lot of concerts, film screenings, and a whole bunch of other cultural events.” says Matt Busby.
One of these cultural events is Civic, a quarterly speaker series that Chattanooga Design Studio has put on since 2017. Civic is hosted at The Camp House and brings experts from across the nation to Chattanooga to share their expertise in an open setting. The event is free and open to the public. Eric Myers, Director of Chattanooga Design Studio, says that The Camp House provides the perfect location for their event. Civic brings people in like Ryan Gravel, a renowned urban designer in the country, most famous for his work on the Atlanta belt line. Myers even cites Civic and The Camp House for bringing an Austin, Texas woman to live in the Scenic City.
“Civic and The Camp House collectively were one of the reasons she chose to move to Chattanooga. Because Camp House and its culture and its ability to offer that to our community and Civic as an event where she can enrich her life professionally through the speaker series.”
The Camp House also cultivates the arts community through the Songwriters Stage competition, film screenings, discussions on racial tensions, church, trivia nights, and more throughout the week.
Together Cafe is another coffee shop whose purpose is to help the community. Together is the brain child of Devin Wallace, who works with human trafficking victims. From the get-go, the idea was find a way to help sustain non-profit ministries, that help victims of human trafficking. All of the profits that Together makes goes to 7th Well, a non-profit designed to do just that. 7th Well works with juvenile domestic minors sex trafficking (DSTs), and offers wholistic day out program services to help those victims thrive in the community. They teach them life skills, vocational skills, therapy, and overall help them in whatever way they can.
“Human trafficking is an issue here. We see it a lot because we are on route to I-75, which is a hub for transit trafficking and stationary trafficking (like walking down the street),” says Tess Brandon, Executive Director of 7th Well.
Brandon adds that people want to ignore the issue of human trafficking. Together has helped with awareness, sustainability, funding, and education. The programs 7th Well offers are completely free.
“It’s one of those things where if you know about it, you can’t look away. The cafe is forcing people to look, I believe, because they want some coffee and they go in and they’re given this issue. There are a lot of people in Chattanooga that would not know about the epidemic of human trafficking if not for the cafe.” Together Cafe is located at 801 South Orchard Knob.
These are just two of coffee shops that are helping the community, but they aren’t the only ones. Stone Cup promotes the growth of the arts community, Cadence supports the homeless with a pay-it-forward program and a food pantry, and Mad Priest employees and works with refugees.
“If you look at every coffee shop in Chattanooga,” says Matt Busby, “you are going to find some way that they are uniquely involved in good for the community of Chattanooga.”
Meet the Storytellers
Amanda Morgan Fann
Amanda Morgan Fann is a photographer, graphic designer and writer, pursuing a degree in both Communication and English at The University of Tennessee Chattanooga. She is the Assistant photo editor and a staff writer for the University Echo. Her passion lies in storytelling and her community as she constantly works at being the voice for people who may not feel they have one. Amanda has a love for performing and currently dances on UTC’s hip hop majorette team, The Ladies of G.O.L.D. If you have a story you wish to share or any questions about me and what I do, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Wilson is an off-beat senior with a double major in both theatre and communications. He is pursuing a career in film and storytelling. In the meantime, he is a published feature writer for the Echo, a professional gaffer, and has worked as an audio designer or stagehand for far too many theatre
productions. Christopher enjoys curling up with some hot tea and spending time with his two cats in his free time. Contact him with a story to tell at email@example.com.
Alex Ogle is a photojournalist with a passion for storytelling and capturing moments. She’s a graduating senior, pursuing a degree in Communications with a minor in Psychology at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She works as a photographer and a contributing writer for The University Echo. You can usually find her with a pair of earbuds, listening to music throughout all times of the day. Contact Alex Ogle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
McKenzie Carver is an insightful writer who has been fortunate enough to have many life experiences that cover much of the emotional spectrum. Carver is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and pursuing a degree in Communications and Spanish. McKenzie is passionate about traveling and the people she meets along her travels. For inquiries or more information, contact me at: email@example.com