A local coffee company is on a mission, with a new home in Glouster

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GLOUSTER, Ohio (WOUB) — Jane Cavarozzi is giving visitors a tour of an old building in Glouster she is remodeling as the new home for her business.

“One thing you guys need to help me with, don’t step in a hole.”

There are lots of holes. Cavarozzi fell through one on the third floor of another building down the street that she’s also helping to remodel. Fortunately, her elbows caught on the floor joists on the way down.

Glouster’s main street is lined with once grand buildings that are now abandoned and in serious need of repair. Some that were too far gone and have already been demolished. Others may face a similar fate.

It’s easy to look at all the neglected, vacant storefronts and see a community long past its prime and in an irreversible decline, like so many others in southeast Ohio.

Cavarozzi sees potential for a comeback. And she’s betting her future on it.

“This is a very resilient, tough, scrappy community,” she said. “This is not a drive-by town, this is a stop-and-visit town.”

Jane Cavarozzi, an owner of Dirty Girl Coffee, stands for a portrait inside of the building the company will be moving into in Glouster, Ohio, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Cavarozzi, the president of the Glouster Revitalization Project, aims to use Dirty Girl Coffee to help promote women's economic progress in Appalachia. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Jane Cavarozzi, co-owner of Dirty Girl Coffee, stands inside of the building the company will be moving into in Glouster. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Cavarozzi and her wife bought one of the buildings to relocate the business they started five years ago, called Dirty Girl Coffee. They make craft coffees and teas that are sold in stores and served in bars and restaurants, mostly in southeast Ohio.

It’s been a home-based business run mostly by Cavarozzi while her wife, Kara Tripp, works a corporate job in Columbus.

“Right now she’s my sugar momma up there working a full-time job and I need her talents down here,” she said.

But for that to happen, the business needs to grow, and they’re out of space at home. The couple live on the second floor of a 32-by-40-foot finished barn that sits on a 10-acre lot a few miles up the road at Burr Oak Lake. The business is run downstairs.

“So we get to roast coffee in the woods watching hummingbirds and deer,” Cavarozzi said. “It’s not a bad gig.”

Cavarozzi spent much of her professional life handling distribution logistics and e-commerce operations for big companies, mostly in the clothing industry. Starting Dirty Girl was not only an opportunity for her to step out of corporate life and strike out on her own, but also a chance for her to fuse her career and social goals.

The company’s name itself is a statement. Its logo is a bicycle gear and chain.

“We think of Dirty Girl, we think of a woman blazing down a muddy mountain bike trail just all slopped up,” Cavarozzi said.

The company’s broader mission is to promote women’s economic empowerment. It sources its coffee beans from women-owned businesses around the world. Expanding its operations will give the company more resources to pursue its mission, including hiring women for its own shop.

But first there’s a lot of work to do just getting the space ready.

“These old buildings are really expensive to save,” Cavarozzi said. “As you can see, there’s a little deferred maintenance in here.”

And Cavarozzi isn’t just focused on her own building. She’s also board president of the Glouster Revitalization Organization, which recently bought a three-story building down the street.

Across the street from Dirty Girl Coffee's planned new location is a row of vacant storefronts, such a this one. The Athens County Land Bank is in the process of acquiring these buildings so they can either be torn down or sold to someone with the means to bring them back to life.
Across the street from Dirty Girl Coffee’s planned new location is a row of vacant storefronts. The Athens County Land Bank is in the process of acquiring these buildings so they can either be torn down or sold to someone with the means to bring them back to life. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
That’s the one where she fell through a hole in the floor. But even through all the decades of deterioration, it’s possible to see glimpses of the building’s previous grandeur. It was once home to a chapter of the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization. Up in the third-floor ballroom, which Cavarozzi calls the money room, it’s still easy to imagine the dances and other gala events once held there.

The plans now are to convert the bottom floor into a retail space where startup businesses can set up shop and sell their wares.

The upper floors might include a community space where school children and others can come to access high-speed internet, and a childcare center that also provides preschool education, giving more mothers a chance to get a job while preparing their children for the start of their school life.

“I’m a 56-year-old lesbian from Columbus,” Cavarozzi said. “If you’d told me 10 years ago I’d be working on early childhood education, I’d say you were crazy.”

But it will likely take several years, and a lot of money, to make all this happen.

“It’s a beast of a building, it’s huge,” Cavarozzi said. “It’s probably going to put me in my grave getting that thing done.”

Across the street is a row of several vacant buildings. One no longer has a roof and may need to be torn down, Cavarozzi said. But it’s possible the others could be brought back to life.

The Athens County Land Bank is in the process of acquiring four of the buildings. One, a two-story red brick building that was once a bank, could end up in the Land Bank’s possession as soon as next week, said Chris Chmiel, an Athens County commissioner who sits on the Land Bank’s board.

The Land Bank was created years ago to address the problem of abandoned, blighted and tax-delinquent buildings that either need to be demolished or sold off to someone with the means to put them back into use.

The first building it acquired was on Glouster’s main street. That one was torn down. It also tore down the old Wonder Bar building across the street from Dirty Girl’s new location. The Glouster Revitalization Organization’s first project was to convert the space left behind into a small community park.

The Land Bank receives funding from the state to pay for demolition but not remodeling of these abandoned buildings, Chmiel said. But demolition isn’t always the right answer, he said.

“That’s the part that sort of tears me up,” he said. “It seems like there’s a lot of money to tear properties down, but there’s not a lot of money to save properties or rehab them. And I struggle with what is the best path for progress if we just lose all our history in the process.”

Chmiel said he will be bringing people in to evaluate the old bank building to help determine if it’s worth letting stand and finding someone to bring it back to life, like Dirty Girl is doing with its building.

“The easy thing to do will be just tear it down because we have funding to do that,” he said. “The more challenging thing is to find a developer that has the resources and is willing to put in that money to fix the place up.”

The inside of the future home of Dirty Girl Coffee is seen prior to renovations on the two story building, in Glouster, Ohio, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
Once the renovations are completed, the bottom floor of Dirty Girl Coffee’s new shop will feature a walk-up coffee and tea bar. [Joseph Scheller | WOUB]
The remodeling plans for Dirty Girl include retail space on the first floor with a walk-up bar serving coffee and tea along with some outside seating, and space for product development on the second floor.

But as the coronavirus pandemic and the related global supply chain issues have driven up the cost of building materials, bids from contractors are coming in way over budget, and the plans may have to be scaled back for now.

Cavarozzi had hoped to open the shop in time for the holidays, but that will get pushed back as she tries to find a contractor who can work within her budget.

For all the work still to be done, the location does already offer something crucial for any retail operation. Glouster’s main street is State Route 13, and on a recent morning a steady stream of traffic flowed in both directions.

“You can see the traffic is pretty substantial here, so we want to give all those cars a reason to stop,” Cavarozzi said.

And when they do stop, she hopes customers leave with a good taste in their mouths, not only from the coffee but from the experience in Glouster.

Before settling on a new location, Dirty Girl did community surveys and found there was an overall lack of optimism in Glouster. Cavarozzi wants to change that.

“We want this place to feel very optimistic,” she said. “We want people to be treated like queens and kings when they’re in here, and just kind of set that tone, so when they walk in they feel a different culture.”