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Serving Comfort, One Cup At A Time
Pura Vida Coffee brings the unique flavors and furnishings of Costa Rica to Hagerstown.
by Nicole Jovel and photos by Turner Photography Studio
Coffee gets millions of Americans going each morning, but at Pura Vida Coffee, you get more than just a cup of joe. “We strive to create all our menu items in-house with our own recipes,” says Margie Yeager, the restaurant’s owner/operator. “It’s a home away from home. The majority of our customers are regulars or regulars who bring their friends. Some people come in every single day.”
The regulars know that inside the shop is an American/Costa Rican fusion café with familiar faces and hand-crafted coffees, teas, baked goods, and breakfast and lunch fare. It’s just around the corner from Interstate 81 and Hagerstown Regional Airport on Pennsylvania Avenue in a beautifully renovated farmhouse. The overhaul included opening up the walls, refinishing the original hardwood floors, and adding Costa Rican touches in the décor. In fact, there’s a story behind the photos on display, the name of the establishment, and even the wooden tables.
In 2010, Margie’s son, Matt, traveled to Costa Rica to work with the Cabecar Indians, which is the largest indigenous group in that country. While there, he met missionary Josiah Hubbard and worked with him on construction projects. The Yeagers have maintained the relationship with Josiah over the years, and now consider Costa Rica to be one of their three “circles of community.”
“We’re all about our three circles of community,” says Margie. “The first is investing in our young staff through resume building and developing management skills.” Though the Yeagers have not worked in the coffee or food service industry in the past — Margie’s background is in bookkeeping, leadership development, and nonprofit work — she credits her husband, Glenn, with the idea of opening the café. “He always wanted to do something entrepreneurial,” she says. “When we opened the shop, we hired to our weaknesses — the food and beverages.”
The Yeagers’ second circle of influence is the tri-state area. Margie and Glenn have lived in Hagerstown for 20 years, and consider it their hometown. “This is a place for community to happen in our area through small meetings, study time, and meeting up with friends,” says Margie.
The third circle of influence is Costa Rica, which became very important to them through their relationship with Josiah’s Mountain of Dreams organization, and the opportunity to support job creation and education for school-aged children. Among other things, Mountain of Dreams works with the lumber mill in the Turrialba region to develop jobs for people in the area.
To that end, the Yeagers contacted Josiah before they opened Pura Vida in 2017 to build their café tables with Costa Rican lumber. “We helped him get his export license so he could send the tables to us,” says Margie. “We were their first shipment.”
The relationship also inspired the name, Pura Vida, both for its meaning — pure life, or as Margie says, “to chill and relax” — and to raise awareness about Costa Rica. The nod to Costa Rica is also prevalent in their menu; the pour-overs are done with a traditional Costa Rican chorreador (a device that leaches hot water through coffee grounds that are held in a cloth filter that is mounted on a wooden stand, then drips into a container). Their original chef also traveled to Costa Rica to learn some Costa Rican recipes with another culinary student.
Menu items inspired with a Costa Rican influence include gallo pinto, a traditional Costa Rican breakfast dish of black beans, rice, peppers, sour cream, scrambled; Costa Rica’s distinctive Salsa Lizano; and chorreadas, which are lightly sweetened Costa Rican corn pancakes topped with mango and powdered sugar. “We like to describe them as a blend of a corn fritter and a pancake,” says Margie.
The menu also features huge cinnamon rolls that are made in-house with the chef’s own yeast dough, a generous layer of sweet cinnamon and brown sugar filling, and a cream cheese icing for those with a sweet tooth. Or you can order a chipotle turkey sandwich, which comes hot off the grill with sliced turkey, a house-made chipotle aioli, tomato, pepperjack cheese, and cilantro served on sourdough bread for something a little more filling. The chef also creates seasonal items, like the “cran-ucopia” in the colder months, and blackberry cheese Danishes in the spring.
On the beverage side, the café partners with Lamplighter Coffee Roasters out of Richmond, Va. In addition to traditional coffee, iced coffee, and tea, the baristas serve a variety of espressos and specialty lattes. The “nutt-ella” latte is a favorite among customers for its house-made chocolate sauce and hazelnut syrup. Another delicious option is the cinnamon spice latte that combines a fun blend of espresso with Pura Vida’s specialty spice blend, which is steamed right into the milk.
Put it all together — the ambiance and unique décor touches, the handcrafted food and beverages, and the welcoming staff — and you’ve got a unique more-than-just-coffee shop where you can grab something on the run, cozy up in a corner for some quiet study or reading time, or even hold a small meeting. When the weather is nice, you can even enjoy breakfast or lunch — along with the free Wi-Fi — in the café’s outdoor seating area.
Margie’s hope is that folks will stop by and love the Fountainview area and farmhouse and the care that has gone into each menu item as much as she does. “Nothing is pre-packaged here. We even make our own chocolate and caramel sauces in the back,” she says. “We hope people will come by for something made just for them and just chill and relax.”