“Coffee connects us in so many ways – to each other, to our senses and to the earth that supports the coffee trees.” – Rohan Marley
More than a coffee shop
Sometimes dreams do come true, with a little help from the right timing and the right friends.
Last fall, thanks to good timing and her friendship with Don and Geri Pratt, Michelle Sieling realized her dream of foodie-turned-café-owner when she, and her husband Steve, became the new owners of Aromas Coffeehouse, Bakeshop and Café, on Prince George in Merchants Square. Aromas, which was founded 18 years ago by the Pratts, has grown into a Williamsburg institution and a popular staple in the community for students, locals, and tourists to gather, drink, eat and create.
Although known and recognized for its coffee, Aromas has become something much bigger, more meaningful to the community than simply a “coffee shop.” This community hub functions as “a home away from home” for its customers, who can enjoy breakfast, lunch and dinner at Aromas seven days a week. Whether you are at Aromas for work, school or leisure, each night offers an event for community gathering and plenty of good food and fun.
Monday nights are Burger Nights. Thursday night is open mic night, featuring writers, singers and musicians from across the region. On Friday and Saturday nights, customers can enjoy live music indoors and often outdoors where locals are often strumming guitars and the occasional mandolin. The venue also features a rotating wall of art filled with works created by local artists.
Original co-founder and co-owner, Geri Pratt said her mission was to have it be a home away from home. “If you’re a college student you come here and hang out and feel like it is your home. If you’re a visitor, this is your go-to place. We try to make it really comfortable.”
And it is these details, intentions and aims of the original co-founders that are the primary focus of the new owners as they aspire to embrace and preserve Aromas’ legacy.
“Aromas is a casual, warm comfortable setting where you can come in with your laptop and do your work and meet with other students and work on papers and projects together,” echoes Michelle Sieling, who hopes to continue the warm, welcoming and cozy spirit of Aromas.
A foodie and coffee lover’s paradise
“I am a coffee fanatic. Once you go to proper coffee, you can’t go back. You cannot go back.” – Hugh Laurie
Voted the Best Coffeeshop in Williamsburg, Aromas roasts its coffee in-house daily and is known for serving the freshest cup of Joe in Williamsburg. Exotic teas are also offered for non-coffee drinkers. They also offer a plethora of creative coffee and non-coffee drinks.
A pastiche of mouth watering pastries like croissants, muffins and energy bars are baked fresh daily and all the food – ranging from omelets, quiche, and mac n’ cheese to homemade soups and sandwiches – are made to order in the kitchen from scratch. It is a veritable foodie’s paradise.
Aromas also offers wine and beer along with spiked coffees to enjoy with dinner, open-mic nights or your more adventurous nights.
Doing business with friends
Since the Sielings bought the beloved coffee shop from its founders, Don and Geri Pratt, who are close friends of the Sielings, the Pratts will continue to be involved in the day-to-day operations of Aromas.
While following in the footsteps of the Pratts and their success may seem daunting, the Sielings’ transition to ownership of Aromas has been graciously simple and rooted in preserving Aromas’ legacy and traditions in the Williamsburg community. The Sielings vow to not make any drastic changes to or thoughtlessly tinker with the magical formula that has made Aromas a community treasure for 18 years.
“If it’s not broken, why fix anything?” Michelle Sieling asks.
They have retained all the “amazing” staff employed at Aromas, Sieling said. In addition, they have kept the Pratts on board to guide and mentor them about the business. Sieling views her relationship with the Pratts as a “true partnership” and an invaluable one. The Pratt’s continued involvement is included in the purchase agreement and was a major detail that pushed the sale along.
“One of the key factors for us to go ahead and purchase Aromas was Don and Geri. Aromas is their baby that they have raised for 18 years. So, part of the purchase agreement ensures Don and Geri will remain full-time consultants for a minimum of a year and a half and serve on the board of directors for a minimum of five years,” explains Sieling.
And the gratitude between these partners flows both ways.
“One of the many things that I’m thankful for is that they have allowed us to be able to continue working in the business alongside them and continue to enjoy the relationships we struck with others in the community,” Don Pratt said.
The Pratts are also grateful to have found a young savvy couple to invest in and carry on the legacy they started with to thoughtfully guide Aromas into the future. Coffee, community and comfort waits to welcome you, still.