There comes a time that every raven says ‘nevermore.’
For Jessica Hall, that time was last Monday.
It was announced on Facebook that the longtime Raven’s Nest Coffee House owner was selling her business to Brittany Mabry, co-owner of Grill 309.
Mabry will be leaving Grill 309 and will begin operating Raven’s Nest May 1.
Hall said it wasn’t a difficult decision to leave.
“Brittany asked and I said yes,” Hall said with a laugh.
The two have known each other for years, when Mabrey first came to town and opened Grill 309 she was meeting with sales representatives at Raven’s Nest.
That familiarity helped Hall make the decision.
“I don’t want to say I’ve been wanting to sell it for a while, but at this point I want to spend more time with granddaughter and I want to get back to my artwork and travel,” Hall said. “(Having a business) is like having a dairy farm, you’re never off. Because I have a kiddo I didn’t let it grow in ways I know it needed to.”
By passing the torch to Mabrey, Hall said she knows that the energy will be there to take Raven’s Nest in a new and exciting direction.
“The freedom that is on the horizon by letting it go and the person coming to me I knew would carry it on and let it thrive,” Hall said.
Mabrey has admired Raven’s Nest since her family moved to Culpeper while she was in college in Florida.
“The two places that stood out to me were Beer Hound Brewery and Raven’s Nest,” she said. “I started coming in a lot and got to know Jessica. I was looking to branch out and do something different. Being able to buy the building as well was a plus.”
Mabrey plans minor changes to start - the upstairs will no longer be available for small events - but says she hopes to keep the heart and soul of the business alive. On a recent weekday afternoon, she was receiving baking lessons from Hall for some of the coffee shop’s delicious pastries.
“The foundation here is so solid,” Mabrey said. “I see potential for some new growth and new avenues that it can go.”
She plans to apply for a Virginia ABC license - in hopes of offering beer, wine and a Sunday Bloody Mary bar.
“She already has amazing drinks in here, but just adding to that and making it a little more full circle,” Mabrey said.
The two have been working together for the past week, sharing recipes, learning the espresso machine and talking with regulars about the change.
“I feel like the world is lifted off my shoulders,” Hall said.
“The transition piece is super important,” Mabrey said. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable with her walking out the back door while I walk in the front. There’s going to be a transition time. It’s reassuring to get to meet the regulars through her and get to see how she does things.”
The regulars - while not liking change - have been supportive Hall said. She pointed down the street to the Frenchman’s Corner, when longtime owner Marc Ast turned the business over to new owner Ed Hanlin.
“I think you’re seeing a changing of the guard on Davis Street and I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” she said.
She’s owned Raven’s Nest for 13 years, originally opening it where Moving Meadows is now on East Davis Street. She’s seen the lower half of East Davis Street stabilize.
“When I came in on lower East Davis Street, I was it,” Hall said. “Foti’s was there, the fly fishing place was there. If Cast Away came in now, they would rock. He floundered at the time because there was nothing to pull people down. What I hope for Culpeper is that we don’t become “anywhere” America. We are now nationally acclaimed for our Main Street, I’d like to see that continue.”
For Mabrey, she hopes to continue the legacy and add to the vibrant female-owned community on Davis Street.
Raven’s Nest for 13 years
“To me, what’s great about this street is that there are so many strong independent women on this block,” Mabrey said.
She hopes to continue the community-minded feel that Hall has fostered - one that Culpeper has come to love, like Hall’s morning videos from the Raven’s Nest.
“The one thing wonderful about the coffee house is you’re here at 5 in the morning and that’s why I started doing those good morning posts,” Hall said. “That ability to see it all the time. You’re able to stay more in touch with the flow of being downtown.”
It’s a feeling that Mabrey is looking forward to embracing.