Saturday, September 23, 2023

This old firehouse turned-breakfast coffee shop is undergoing some changes

Firehouse Coffee 1881 is located on Fort Monroe (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Donna Wray)
Firehouse Coffee 1881 is located on Fort Monroe (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Donna Wray)

HAMPTON — Firehouse Coffee 1881, a breakfast spot which opened at Fort Monroe in 2017, has new owners.

Donna Wray, and her husband, Timothy, a Navy veteran, planned to go back to the Florida Panhandle where her family lives but ended up buying the coffee shop from the previous owners in January after she heard one of the owners wanted to sell the shop.

“I love to bake, I love to cook. I love to entertain, you know ––– I’m a southerner,” Donna Wray said.

“I’ve always been interested in the restaurant business,” she added. “I just like people –– I like to see people happy, I like to see people eat and drink.”

The coffee shop was originally an old firehouse built in 1881 and the oldest fire department in the U.S. Army’s history, Gray noted.

Now the shop has fresh organic coffee every week and all of the baked goods are made in house, except for the chocolate croissants. Breakfast sandwiches are served all day and the shop also serves Hershey’s ice cream.

“People come here just to sit and socialize and they meet new people,” Wray said. “Food is the number one icebreaker, food and drink.

Gray said she is always adding new items to the menu like a barbecue pulled pork sandwich and smoked chicken for the chicken salad, which her husband does with a smoker outside the restaurant.

“We’re still in the redecorating and moving things around mode,” Wray said, adding she plans to modify the upstairs portion of the firehouse, which could possibly include adding more seating.

Currently the coffee shop offers live music, a meeting space for small groups and paint night.

“It’s changed my life –– it’s touched me deeply to meet these people,” Wray said.

Firehouse Coffee 1881, 1 Ruckman Road is open Tuesday through Friday 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday to Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

The venue is open Mondays until July 26 from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. before the shop permanently closes on Mondays.

Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

Related Articles