Where the Arts Are Celebrated
By Olivia Overman, Contributing Writer
“It’s like a big living room … a community shop,” said co- owner Tom Nichols of Deja Brew Coﬀee House, which is tucked into Merchants View Square in Haymarket.
Nichols and his wife Lisa Nichols relocated their coﬀee shop in May 2010 from its Lee Highway address in Gainesville, where the coﬀeehouse ﬁrst opened, to a more convenient location in the town nearby. They have not looked back.
Tom Nichols, formerly a sound engineer in the entertainment industry, set out to create a location with a music and arts vibe that people can enjoy while relaxing over a cup of coﬀee, he said. “I really wanted to create a place that inspired the musicians, plus provide good coﬀee and good food,” Nichols said.
At Deja Brew, customers can make themselves at home in comfortable lounge chairs, mingle, make use of the free Wi-Fi and explore the arts.
Coffee with a Side of Art
The shop has become a community destination where local artists and authors display their work and musicians perform, sometimes on a whim. Each month, the coﬀeehouse features the work of a diﬀerent artist, Nichols said. Musical performances vary, from professional jam sessions to brave souls making their way to the back of the room to sing at Deja Brew’s open mic night.
“Every Saturday night is open mic night, and we have people coming from D.C., Maryland, from all around the area,” said Nichols. “You don’t have to be local to enjoy these events; they are livecast online and seen around the world.”
Lexi Peto, 14, from Warrenton, is among the performers at open mic night. “I come here to perform because it’s super awesome and because everyone here is super nice,” said Peto, who is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. “Everyone here accepts you for who you are. The ﬁrst time I came here I just walked in, and they were automatically, like, so nice to me, so welcoming: ‘You’re a musician, we love you already.’”
Denise Philpott, from Annandale, also sings and plays guitar regularly at the coﬀeehouse. “I drive out here because I love the place, and I’ve met some really awesome musicians here,” said Philpott, who performs professionally. “Mostly I play by myself, but sometimes other people join in.”
A calendar of events on Deja Brew’s website (www.dejabrewcoﬀeehouse.com) sets out each month’s happenings, such as the acoustic listening club, jazz and blues jam and writers’ and poets’ night. For patrons who want to get in on the act, the eclectic collection of musical instruments that lines the walls is not just for show. Nichols encourages people to play the instruments, which are also available for purchase.
Additionally, Nichols sees his neighborhood-driven location as an outlet for children interested in the arts, and plans activities that encourage kids, he said. During a Deja Brew “Graﬃti Event,” Nichols invited artists to paint on a mock wall he brought into the shop. He said the event allowed kids to talk to the artists, who discussed their work and showed the kids how to channel their artistic energy in positive ways.
He also schedules weekly events at the shop to expose children to the arts. Deja Brew has a half-hour story session every Tuesday at 10 a.m., when staﬀ read to children while the kids’ parents take a break and relax over a cup of coﬀee. “Children’s Music Time,” Thursdays at 11 a.m., are hour-long family sing-alongs. The shop also has movie nights, when kids’ meals are $1 oﬀ.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
Nichols said people come to Deja Brew to gather with friends and family and to meet new people as well. Through his desire to create a cozy and inviting community-oriented atmosphere, Nichols has strived to build his coﬀee shop into the type of place where everybody knows your name, he said. And, as the “Cheers” theme song goes, he added, you are always glad you came.
Establishing community connections and roots are important to Nichols. As a sound engineer, he spent much of his time on the road prior to opening Deja Brew, he said. After his son was born, he decided the time was right to put down roots and ﬁnally make a dream come true. “I always wanted to open a coﬀeehouse,” he said.
Offers More than Coffee
The Nichols have made their coﬀee shop as “traditionally European as possible, oﬀering smoothies, coﬀee, cappuccinos, and over 20 diﬀerent types of teas,” he said. Smoothies, made to order with fresh fruit, are a customer favorite, he added. Beer, wine and even sake are also available.
Like most other coﬀee shops, Deja Brew serves food as well, selling light fare such as wraps, salads, breakfast sandwiches, burritos and paninis. Additionally, the menu includes cakes and cookies, made from scratch on the premises each day.
But unlike other coffeehouses coﬀeehouses, the Nichols’ cofee shop offers something more—dinner. “We have a dinner menu, once a week: one meal [option]for 15 to 20 people,” said Nichols. During the two-hour dinner period, “people can get a good meal,” he said.
Giving Back to Community
In addition to providing a gathering place for area residents and visitors, Deja Brew hosts fundraisers for local causes to support the community. The Nichols organized a beneﬁt concert recently at the coﬀeehouse to raise funds for a neighborhood boy suffering from cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury. The boy’s parents could not aﬀord the expensive therapy required to treat his condition, Nichols explained.
Through raﬄes, a silent auction and donating a portion of the night’s proceeds, the couple raised $9,000. “The theater community got involved and brought in stuﬀ for the silent auction,” said Nichols.
In addition to the sense of community at Deja Brew, it’s the atmosphere, coﬀee and food that keep patrons coming back. “Deja Brew is one of my favorite local coﬀeehouses. It beats Starbucks hands down every time,” posted a Haymarket resident in reviewing the shop on Yelp.com. A reviewer from Haymarket posted on TripAdvisor, “The best community coﬀee shop I’ve ever been to. This place is amazing.”
Deja Brew Coﬀee House, located at 5311 Merchants View Square, is open Monday to Friday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 10
p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Visit www.livestream.com/ dejabrewlive to watch Deja Brew’s open mic night, which starts at 7 p.m. on Saturdays.[divider]
A graduate of American University’s School of Communication, Olivia Overman is a freelance writer who has composed articles for a number of online and print publications. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.