FAIRMONT — Joe N’ Throw Co-op, which is both a coffee house and a pottery studio, wants to help stimulate the local economy.
Two separate businesses reside in the building at 323 1/2 Adams St. in downtown Fairmont and make up Joe N’ Throw Co-op. Michael Ray started West Fork Pottery with his business partner, Nate Zirkle, around 2011, and Bob Layne got Stone Tower Joe up and running almost two years ago.
At Joe N’ Throw Co-op, which has been open about six weeks, Layne takes care of the coffee side of the operations and Ray handles the pottery side. They are planning a grand opening celebration for sometime in September.
“You’ve got to keep it interesting,” Layne said of the variety that the business offers.
He explained that the shop offers all fair trade organic coffee, which is made using “old-school,” manual methods like French presses and pour-overs, rather than a drip coffee maker. Customers can get different specialty coffee drinks, which is especially popular with the college students.
The place has a lunch menu Monday through Friday that features a variety of original and interesting sandwiches, wraps, salads and soups, as well as a pastries made by the in-house pastry chef.
In addition, Joe N’ Throw Co-op has a rotating selection of craft beers on tap from West Virginia breweries, and a nice bottle selection, too. Free WiFi is available there.
The venue also offers live music. On its Facebook page, Joe N’ Throw Co-op will post information about upcoming band appearances and updates on pottery classes.
Ray teaches six-week classes in which students make hand-built and wheel-thrown pottery and learn glazing and decorating techniques. Students tackle a different project every week. Each six-week session costs $220, which includes all the necessary tools and materials.
In addition, Ray reserves one night per week for single sessions where people can just take a class on one project, such as clay owls or wall pockets. He is starting a class this week called Pints and Pots, where participants will make beer tumblers and get a pint of beer.
Classes are typically limited to a maximum of eight people and are designed for beginners.
“90 percent of my students have never touched clay before,” Ray said.
Layne and Ray explained that they met at West Virginia’s 150th birthday celebration in Fairmont in June 2013, and they both participated in the beard competition. At the time, Layne had been selling his fresh-roasted coffee at local farmers markets and Ray had been selling his pottery. They saw that they had a lot in common and became friends.
An investor ended up coming to Fairmont and buying the building at 323 1/2 Adams St., and inquired about local small businesses that could potentially be located in that space. Kate Greene, executive director of Main Street Fairmont, put the investor in contact with Layne and Ray.
“Coffee and pottery go really well together,” Layne said. “We thought it’d make a good business model to put both of our current businesses together and make this place.”
In early October of last year, they began rehabilitating the entire building with the help of their friend Richard Crosby of Crosby Construction and Layne’s dad, Tim, of Layne Contracting.
Layne said they couldn’t ask for better support than what they have received since opening Joe N’ Throw Co-op.
“We’ve been pretty busy,” Ray said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from the community, which is good. We’ve had a lot of questions, people coming in just curious to see the place.”
As for the future, Layne and Ray have plans to open a second location at 314 Washington St. in Fairmont. This site will serve as a coffee roastery where people can do roasting tours and buy from a huge selection of fresh-roasted coffees, and Ray will create a bigger pottery studio within that space, too.
“With the bigger space, it’s going to give us the opportunity to really do what we want to do, which is make pots and make coffee,” Ray said. “We want to pull some business off the interstate, get some people coming back to downtown Fairmont.”
People will have the chance to watch Ray do his pottery work from start to finish and see Layne manage his roasting operation.
Then at the current location on Adams Street, the coffee shop offerings will be expanded into the section where the pottery studio is now located. This will create more room for holding art shows, concerts and other events there.
The second location will also give them space to store spare materials and produce more coffee and pottery.
“We don't want to leave Fairmont ever, but we want to get our product out to people that are not local and still have a place for the local people to come, which is this shop,” Ray said.
Joe N’ Throw Co-op is currently open 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday, and 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, call 304-816-4390 or visit the shop on Facebook.