Local coffee shops energize small Kentucky towns
Among the bourbon, horses, and bluegrass, Kentucky may not yet be known for its coffee shops—but it should be. Caffeine enthusiasts don’t have to search far to find that local coffeehouses bring robust flavor to their communities.
“Our take is that anything can be done anywhere, if it’s done right,” says Justin Harden, owner of Harden Coffee in Campbellsville.
Born and raised in Campbellsville—his father, Ricky, is a construction foreman at Taylor County RECC—Harden moved to Kansas City to work and opened his heart to something new.
“I fell in love with coffee while I was there,” Harden says.
He moved back to Kentucky, tending vines at his family’s winery, and he started roasting his own coffee beans on his back porch. Soon enough, his brother-in-law began carrying Harden’s beans in his health-food store, where Harden operated an espresso bar for four years.
This month, Harden Coffee celebrates two years of being “a full-on coffee shop.”
Located on East Main Street, the shop brands itself as an uncommon roaster, which through its blends “introduces people to specialty coffee in a new way,” Harden says.
Primarily a coffee roastery, the café’s most popular drinks are espresso-based—macchiatos, lattes, cortados, and cappuccinos. Harden also serves cocktails, in-house sodas, flavored teas, and pastries baked in the store.
You and Me Coffee and Tea
Andy Salmons, co-owner of You and Me Coffee and Tea in Corbin, has a similar story.
Originally from Corbin, Salmons moved to Lexington for college, and then lived in Brazil for five years.
“When I came back…looking at the community, I just noticed that there’s a need,” Salmons says. “There was a niche that wasn’t being filled.”
For his “day job,” Salmons is the director of Downtown Corbin, a Main Street Program. “Really, opening this place was kind of a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ type thing,” he says.
The shop opened in late 2012.
“I knew that I wanted good coffee,” he says. “I knew someone had to do it. As it turns out, the service industry is a lot of fun. The community has really embraced this place.
“If you want to hang out with a friend you haven’t seen in ages, we want this to be that place. If you want to sit and write a book—we’ve had numerous books written from here. That’s been fun. It’s a place for creativity and community and great coffee.”
You and Me is the only coffee shop in Kentucky that serves Counter Culture Coffee, which sources handmade coffees from farmers and cooperatives. Salmons’ favorite drink is a straight espresso, but he says lattes are the shop’s best-sellers. The shop offers pastries baked in-house by a team led by Salmons’ mother. It also serves a full lunch menu and a brunch menu.
Terri Tuttle has always loved coffee, and 15 years ago this month, Baxter’s Coffee in Somerset was born. The people in the community quickly responded, and Tuttle’s shop took off from there.
“I started studying it,” she says. “Coffee is one of those things, the more you learn, the more you like.”
About seven years ago, Baxter’s started roasting its own coffee, including its own Somerset blend. Now, the shop has four locations—two traditional coffee shops, a roastery and warehouse with a drive-through window, and a shop at the local hospital. It’s become a destination for out-of-towners as well as locals. Baxter’s also supplies coffee to other cafés, businesses, retailers, and wholesalers across the state.
Baxter’s is truly a family business. It is named after the family dog. All three of owner Tuttle’s children are now back in the daily grind, filling their own roles in the business.
“People in the community are very good to us,” Tuttle says. “They like that it’s something that was Somerset-based from the initial inspiration.”
Iced coffee is “tremendously popular” at Baxter’s, which also serves goods like muffins and scones baked in-house, and has grab-and-go sandwiches.
Sixth and Main Coffeehouse
Named after its physical location, Sixth and Main Coffeehouse is a fixture of the Shelbyville community.
“We’re humbly about Shelbyville,” says owner Pen Waggener. “We’re part of the downtown community.”
Sixth and Main has been open for 11 years. Says Waggener, “We wanted a place to drink coffee, so we decided to open a place.”
A couple of other factors also make the coffeehouse stand out: it has a selection of new and used books with a focus on local authors, often hosting signings or readings; and its location is architecturally unique.
“Most buildings the age of ours burned down,” Waggener says. Built in the 1860s, the location has been home to several businesses, including drugstores, a men’s store, and a confectionery.
Waggener purchases green coffee beans from three different wholesalers and roasts them on-site in small batches.
“The fact that we roast, it’s not unusual, but it’s unusual for Shelbyville,” he says.
Big risk in a small town?
Many may think it’s a big risk to open a specialty coffee shop in a small town in Kentucky, and several of the owners featured here have heard that sentiment.
“Our core philosophy is don’t be condescending,” says Andy Salmons, of You and Me Coffee and Tea in Corbin. “So many people say, ‘You can’t do that in Corbin, it’s Corbin.’ That’s not true. People like you and me, we’re all traveling out of town to go to these places anyway, right? So, if you bring it here, people are going to latch onto it. The same people that are traveling to do it are going to do it far more frequently here because it’s right at their back door.”
Justin Harden, of Harden Coffee in Campbellsville, says specialty coffee can be intimidating for some people, but it doesn’t have to be.
“Coffee is culinary, but it can be unapproachable for the everyday layperson,” he says. The key is bridging the gap between the educated “foodie” and the person who enjoys coffee, but doesn’t know much about it. “You can bring those people together,” Harden says—especially when you’ve got a quality product and that famous small-town customer service.
Bird Dogs Coffee
101 West Seminary Street
Owenton, KY 40359
202 East Main Street
Campbellsville, KY 42718
Sixth and Main Coffeehouse
547 Main Street
Shelbyville, KY 40065
The Art Factory Coffeehouse
29 Railroad Street
Beattyville, KY 41311
The Creme Coffee House
109 East 2nd Street
Owensboro, KY 42303
The Hub Coffee House & Café
236 West Main Street
Danville, KY 40422
You and Me Coffee and Tea
300 South Main Street
Corbin, KY 40701
34 Public Square
Elizabethtown, KY 42701