It's an aroma that effectively stops passerby on the sidewalk.
The fragrance wafting in from downtown Lancaster’s Gallery Row is unmistakable – hot, fresh, brewed coffee, permeating the air as it passes from hand to hand in the Liz Hess Gallery.
Standing behind a table near the door is Leon Miller, owner and founder of Lonely Monk Coffee, dishing out free coffee brewed in his own home to warm the fingers of those who braved winter temperatures to attend the fifth annual Coffee Crawl Feb. 8 from 10 am to 3 pm.
What began as a community event by seven local galleries – Christiane David, CityFolk, Freiman Stoltzfus, Friendship Heart, Liz Hess, Red Raven – and four galleries of the past – Artisans, Franz Fox, Julia Swartz, Mios – has now reached to residents of other parts of the county and the state.
“I’ve talked to multiple people from the York/Harrisburg area today. One couple from York said they were here last year,” Miller said.
The Coffee Crawl aims to get people out of the house, away from technology and interacting with each other as they check out local art and artists.
Next to the Christmas season, Wayne Baer, manager of Liz Hess Gallery, said the Coffee Crawl, which always takes place the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, is Gallery Row’s busiest day of the year.
“The best part is seeing our customers out enjoying themselves. A free coffee sample and a sweet treat brings them out,” Baer said.
Philadelphia’s seven-year-old Vanja Borcanin, who visited Liz Hess with her mother and family friends, said she liked everything about the Coffee Crawl.
Borcanin, herself an artist with the preferred medium of recycled goods, or “junk, the ones that you already used that wasn’t soiled” especially enjoyed the art.
“They put so much art in it,” she said, noting that she had chosen a Liz Hess original of a dog “cause it’s cute.”
An employee of the local Sweet Shoppe, Ephrata’s Heather Hibshman, prepared Lancaster’s famous Stroopies live.
Dutch treat Stroopwaffels, or Stroopies, have been a significant part of Lancaster culture since 2008. Literally translated to “syrup waffle”, a warm Stroopie is said to taste especially wonderful after sitting in a cup of coffee or tea.
“I think it’s really nice to bring the community together, to get everyone out and interacting with each other, to see local artists. We all just kind of get stuck in our own worlds. When you take time to go to an event like this, you meet a lot of new people,” Hibshman said.
She stated her favorite part of the event was getting to communicate with the attendees.
“It’s neat to get everybody out and about. I think people don’t always get the chance to put their phones down and interact with each other, to see the different artwork and artists. There’s a lot of talented people.”
Miller said that by the end of the event, he was pushing on seven gallons of coffee.
“[In the first Coffee Crawl], we had one machine and a line back to here. The next year, I brought an extra machine and the line was still here,” he said, indicating the length of the entire gallery.
“It gets people out and into the city and any time you can appreciate art and enjoy quality coffee and quality pastries and chat and interact with people, that’s good for your soul.”
In addition to the crowd at Liz Hess, participants of the Coffee Crawl stopped into the also-Liz Hess owned Pop and Perk Café – which opened one week prior. They marveled at the art rivaling the best of Renaissance painters from local and Berlin-based artist, Sarah McRae Morton, in Red Raven Art Company; checked out the newest creations from the Heart Artists of the Friendship Heart Gallery; selected chocolate for Valentine’s Day from Miesse Candies; were swept away by swirls of vibrant color in Christiane David; gazed at the art of another local and international artist, Freiman Stoltzfus; examined the pieces of CityFolk and generally enjoyed their afternoons.
While some visitors may have popped in only for the free coffee, biscuits and candy (and to pet the cat sunning on the radiator of Christiane David), most focused intently on the art and the chatter.
Some even ran into friends they hadn’t seen in a while, noted attendee Zita Castillo.
In 2002, Lancaster had seven galleries. Today, there are 150.
“There are people producing major art – artists everywhere. You can find art for sale just about anywhere,” Miller said.
Baer encouraged people to attend next year for a preview of the fine art and gourmet food Lancaster has to offer.
“Come out next year; this is great fun,” added Miller.