Profile Coffee and Roasters, Inc.

24 Jan

I woke up this morning (January 19th) riddled with anxiety. I knew it was now or never to begin Leg Two of the Valleys of the Susquehanna journey that I’d started before the holiday craziness. Pennsylvania had just been pummeled by one winter storm and the electronic signs on the freeway were already blinking: Winter Weather Advisory Thursday AM, Plan Travel Accordingly. So today it would be. A gorgeous, blue Wednesday sandwiched in between the storms.

We’ll be starting things off in the little town in Elysburg, home to my cousin, a radio station, and not much else. It’s not technically a town, being officially termed a “census-designated place.” There’s the awesome Knoebel’s Grove Amusement Park nearby, which is what everyone around these parts associates with Elysburg. The town itself sits in the middle of a lush valley just south of the eastern branch of the Susquehanna River. The river forks just north of Sunbury to the west, which makes this whole area the heart of the Valleys region. Beautiful, bucolic…and as we saw last month, full of burgeoning college towns. Bloomsburg University, in fact, is less than ten miles from Elysburg itself. I’d go so far as to call “college” an industry in this area. It’s populated enough to be convenient but isolated enough to be peaceful. I hope that’s a balance that lasts.

There is also coffee here, and good coffee at that. The name of the cafe I decided up was itself impressive: Profile Coffee and Roasters, Inc. Sounds artistic. Understand, Elysburg is a town without a downtown, or at least without much of one. I’d expected townhouses and clustered shops, but it’s really quite spread out like an old Appalachian holler often is. People here are farmers and workers, not college kids and hipsters. Profile sticks out like a sore thumb. It actually feels like the nucleus of what could one day become a downtown. It embodies “downtownness,” from the funky lettering on the stately brick edifice, to the advertisement of its commitment to LGBT rights displayed on its Google Maps offering. There’s intent here. Intent to make this business a center of something.

As a matter of fact, progress was very much on display inside the shop. I came at an inauspicious moment; the common room was in a state of disarray, and as I was standing at the counter, an elderly chap put one hand on each of my arms and shuffled me out of the way before an incoming stainless-steel counter on the move could flatten me. They’re obviously scaling up. They seemed surprised that someone even had the poor timing to stop by in the middle of this. Being caught off guard didn’t dampen their hospitality one bit, however, and I was quickly given a fresh brew.

The coffee I got was Brazilian. Now, Brazilian coffees are often known for their unique flavors and low acidity. The good thing about low acidity coffee is that it has a smooth finish. It also tends to be described as “bright,” and that’s how I’d describe this particular roast. Low-acid coffees also lean towards being slightly bitter, and this one was, but not on the level of an ultra-bitter robusta. That’s oftentimes the “bitter diner coffee” that I whine about. No, this bitterness was dialed back by an almost airy quality. Really, when I used the word “bright” before I was right on track. This was a lovely breakfast blend. You can tell immediately that it’s a local roaster since the flavor palette is unlike the more common blends used at the restaurants in the surrounding countryside. Again, a charming morning cup. I couldn’t get any more information because, well…it was sheer chaos in there. I’ll have to follow up.

Here’s something else about Profile and Elysburg that struck me: They are another study in contradictions like the towns in the western valleys. The folks doing the renovations inside were fascinating; one was clearly a non-conformist, while another proudly displayed a “Blue Lives Matter” t-shirt. And they weren’t trying to strangle each other. How fitting that this cosmopolitan crowd would come together in a coffeehouse! Again, this Enlightenment-era institution comes through as a force for civility. Civil respect is more common than you might think around here in these polarized times. At worst, a look askance and a “bless your heart” are far more common than genuine bigotry in the Pennsylvania countryside. The reasons that people vote the way they do are actually nuanced and complicated, but one would never guess that by scrolling through the feed on one’s computer screen. That’s why travel is good. It’s not about getting out of the house. It’s about getting out of yourself.

And with that, I’m heading down the road to Sunbury. If Williamsport is the informal “capital’ of the Pennsylvania Wilds region, Sunbury is undoubtedly the same for the Valleys area. Oh yes, we’ll be going to the Wilds eventually, but for now, we’re headed to the ancestral homeland of my family and the cultural center of Northumberland County. I’ll be posting that in a few days. Until then, stay caffeinated.


the building…

the entrance…

the copious shelving…

the scrabble…

the town center…

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Posted by on January 24, 2022 in Uncategorized


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