A French Twist for a Green Building – Sykesville Gets Coffee

by Jack White on November 12, 2012

I’ve always been a big fan of the pretty green building across from the closed Post Office and Visitor Center downtown. It’s a beautiful building, and potentially a great story, but there was always that one problem.

The building was empty.

Well that, my friends, is about to change.

The green building in the rain. Soon The French Twist.

The French Twist – Coffee is an Experience

In an interesting plot twist, Sykesville is about to get its coffee shop at last. And it’s going to be a French one called The French Twist Cafe, with French gourmet coffee, and run by Helene Taylor, an actual French person with an actual French accent, who moved here to become an actual live-in French nanny, and who has a daughter who rides the same bus as mine to Sykesville Middle.

Which means I get all my coffee free.

So far Helene’s cafe has already won Best Emerging Business at the Carroll County Business Awards, and according to The Carroll County Times, the business is a finalist in the Carroll Biz Challenge. If it wins, Helene’s going to take the $5000 prize and add a drive through window.

The French Twist logo

And what makes it even cooler is that the coffee shop will exist inside a historic building that started life on Main Street in the late eighteen-hundreds, moved behind Main street, where it stood and rotted in vinyl behind a chain link fence for many years, and then moved again to its current location across from the closed post office on top of a truck a couple years ago, an event we covered in one of our first stories.

This means you can drink French gourmet coffee in a cafe built when someone like the great Chester Arthur was President, and Wade Warfield (more about him in an upcoming story) was just in the early days of building Sykesville. Plus, if you’re a guy, you can wear a beret for that cool sophisticated French look, or a derby for the 1889 American look that young Warfield sported. And if you’re a woman, you can laugh at the guys.

And one more thing. Have you ever seen any of those old French posters by guys like Toulouse-Lautrec? Of course, you have. Well the heart of that movement in the arts was Paris, and the era when all that stuff was going on is referred to as La Belle Epoque, and it coincides almost exactly with the years when the green building was a young American place on Main Street.

It’s quite likely that while carpenters were hammering nails into wood in Sykesville to create this building, Toulouse-Lautrec was helping to invent poster art in Paris while sipping French coffee and getting wasted on absinthe.

There’s something cosmic about it all.

A Happy Ending

This was a story that deserved a happy ending.

And when The French Twist opens sometime around March, that’s what we’re going to have. A happy ending, and apparently, some sort of coffee education to boot.

Here’s what they say on the Carroll Biz Challenge website:

The French Twist will be a sit down retail coffee shop that will source extraordinary coffees from a great local micro-roaster, and will offer a full breakfast and lunch menu featuring savory and sweet crêpes.

For the vast majority of the world, coffee is a commodity. For those among us who are coffee lovers – fanatics even – coffee is an experience. The experience is profound and multi-layered, but can become even more so with additional exploration and thought.

The mission of The French Twist is to introduce its customers to gourmet coffee and authentic French cuisine in a unique and comfortable surrounding. The food menu will be simple, with a focus on traditional French crêpes.

Sounds great. For me coffee is definitely a profound and multi-layered experience. I refer to it as a buzz, and the more I drink the more profound it gets. But I’m more than happy to drink my coffee less in search of a transcendent head rush and more in the spirit of becoming sophisticated in the ways of French gourmet coffee.

I will not, however, do the beret thing.

Now Back to the Building

Here’s a picture of the building, recently stripped of its siding, shortly after the move, when lots of people thought moving a building was really a dumb thing to do.

Moved but stripped of its siding

And here’s our little video of the move. I take no responsibility for the musical accompaniment, and if we get sued by Willie Nelson, we deserve it.

When I wrote my recent article about Matt Candland, I had this in there about the green building, which I suppose we can now start calling The French Twist Cafe.

Candland says, “It was another controversial project, even among some existing council members. People said, ‘Ah just tear the thing down.’ But the building moved over there and then it started coming alive. And it’s a handsome building now. We put about $15,000 of town money into it and just recently Fred Gossage bought it, and the town will net between $120,000 and $130,000 in profit.

“The building will start paying taxes and will ultimately have a use in there that generates economic activity in the downtown.”

Needless to say, if they’d torn it down, the town wouldn’t be collecting $130,000 for a building that has slowly worked its way down Main Street and dates back to the presidencies of men like Hayes, Cleveland, and Arthur.

There are already negotiations going on to bring something new and exciting to the building. (I’ve been sworn to secrecy on that.)

Well the secret is out. French Twist Cafe is coming soon. Happy ending. Berets optional, but not recommended.

Correction: There’s actually a slight mistake in this story, a matter of detail really, which you can read about here. Or I can just tell you. There’s no such thing as French coffee.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Wiley purkey November 12, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Brilliant! Can’t wait!

Pat Greenwald November 12, 2012 at 6:08 pm

I don’t drink coffee (is that too wierd?), but I can’t wait for les crepes fantastique!

Scott Sanzone November 14, 2012 at 3:51 pm

Sounds good, but I don’t think the Town has actually sold the building yet, or is the Town keeping the building and renting it out? They stated in their year end financials that they approved the sale of this building. Either way, hope it comes.

Jack White November 15, 2012 at 9:45 am

Hi Scott,

The town did sell the building.

JW

Scott Sanzone November 15, 2012 at 10:38 am

I asked Ivy, she said the sale will close shortly to Fred Gossage. I hope so, and wish it would open sooner rather than later. We need some new businesses in town. Anyway, I’m glad its going to Fred, he really has done a great job of fixing up the town the past several months. You should look at the State Farm building, painted Think Oak and most recently the house on the corner of Church Street. Really keeps our Main Street looking good.

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