Orange: Coffee. Art. Music. 14 Main Street Delaware Water Gap, PA

How Orange Came To Be

Samuel Saint Thomas

I’d loved the building since moving to the Gap in the 80s. The brick and glass and maple floors and bead-board walls, and a tin ceiling. An original tin ceiling. I can still see Lucy behind the coffee bar. Sam carving ham sandwiches, selling Lucky Strikes and Greyhound tickets. Other cafes opened and closed while the old dame fell into neglect. The sad, forgotten beauty deserved a true historic restoration. The village begged a bright spot on Main. 

Totally by chance, we found out 14 Main was for sale. Days later, Sara & I were standing there in the pouring rain. Cold feet. November. He was stubborn, the seller, wouldn’t get under the umbrella. About then, a cafe tenant stormed around the side of the building and ripped into him, something about a leak. Was this the landlord hell they told us about? We’d be ok, I thought. We’d be there, we’d care. Every day.

We loved the town, the mountains, the river, and the way the location was a sweet little jump off the interstate. It was the investment we had been looking for, something I could get my hands into. Working with my hands is how I  creatively, intellectually, and existentially navigate my life. When I look at things I’ve created I see I exist. Something about saving beautiful old things too has always brought me joy. Exposing what folks have long ignored excites me. This building may be the most ambitious of my some dozen restorations.  

We started negotiation right away on The Historic Green Lantern (c. 1925). Intrigued by its one hundred years of coffee and treats, we embarked on our journey. Robbing our retirements, consulting the professionals, securing investors.  After closing, we left town for a Burn’s Supper. We were delighted. I had plans to rip the fugly aluminum siding off on the first day. And it was fully tenant occupied, leases and all. Our investors counted on that security. 

Hours after our purchase, we found our long term cafe tenant wanted to vacate their lengthy lease. They were offered a  better deal down the street. It was not good news. It sounded like bankruptcy and a great deal of loss to our plans for restoration. We had to say no. Still, the threat remained. We’d need to find another tenant, and quickly, someone seasoned and invested, a fit. We made offers to established coffee shops, wineries, breweries, even two fantastic bakers I knew. But nothing. 

With our cafe tenant sadly gone, I stood in the empty cafe, key in hand. What to do? We hadn’t budgeted for a cafe build. I teach college. And then, my partner had just received a diagnosis of metastatic cancer. Regardless of the challenges, and worry, it was clear, building out a cafe had to be me. The space could not remain empty. Just as I’d done on dozens of projects, I started to imagine, measuring the emptiness for possibilities, digging up ideas I’d been saving for years. I had a blank canvas unlike any I’d known. A gift for which I’d be the steward.

With a wonderful helper, I went to work heaving everything that was not original. Junk equipment. Wires. Pipes. A flooded basement. Wet dumpster loads. Yards and yards.  With a pro team working to bring the outside to life, I set out to design an interior work of art.  I drafted and built a copper topped espresso bar. I forged a relationship with the ethical Passenger Coffee Co. I taught myself all the barista stuff, invited friends for a cupping, tinkered and adjusted the settings on the new Rocket shipped from Milan. I’d call the joint Orange. It’s optimistic. 

All in, it was really long hours, dozens of paint brushes and cans of paint.  Scrubbing. Lots of scrubbing. Scraping the details! But the work was wonderful. Imagining a music venue even more so. My years of musical touring had taught me about a green rooms, pro sound, studio lights, really good everything, and, finally, my late father’s grand piano, hauled from Philadelphia. 

Permits in place, I sent out a call for artists and musicians and Orange was off and running. The day O opened, old and new friends came by to gawk, sip and munch. A jazz trio bounced off the orange ceiling.  “Oh my god, look at this place. It is so beautiful.” Sometimes, late at night, I sit at the coffee bar in the dark with a glass of wine in amazement and thanks that such a stormy start to an investment could turn into an ineffable thing of beauty.