"We wanted to provide a space for the community where they could talk about life, politics and anything else," Pyle said earlier this week. "I didn't even drink coffee when I got the idea, but I loved the thought of a communal space where art, music and social justice could be evident and available."
Donkey Coffee and Espresso (not "The Donkey Coffee" as some folks still insist on calling it) will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary next week and is rewarding the West Washington Street coffeehouse's loyal patrons with a week of treats and deals running Monday, April 9, through Friday, April 13. The business is also using the anniversary as an opportunity to talk up some recent changes, including the opening of an open-air second-floor patio.
Co-owner Angie Pyle explained what she and her husband were going for when they opened Donkey Coffee. "It just made sense to have a coffee shop that was more than simply coming to get a cup of coffee and leaving," she said. "We want to create a place that's hospitable and welcoming so people feel like they can stay."
The 10th anniversary deals on coffees and other special offerings continue Monday through Friday next week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
There will be a $1 raffle tickets available throughout the week to win a month of free drinks at Donkey, and the proceeds will benefit the Rural Action food initiative, an organization to help sustain local agriculture.
Donkey utilizes its unique type of space by having separate rooms with different themes and purposes including "The Hat Room," "The Social Justice Room" and "The Back Room." The latter is a performance space where Donkey hosts its weekly open mic nights, as well as live entertainment on the weekends.
"Athens has a unique music scene with extremely talented artists," said Chris Pyle, a musician himself. "Music is part of the life of the shop. We always have something playing, and it is usually what I want to turn other people on to."
The Donkey owners decided to go the fair trade route with their coffee because "it just seemed perfect" in accompaniment with the other foundations of the business and the Athens area, Chris Pyle said.
"We get to see communities come out of poverty because of using fair trade and making sure the workers get a wage they can live off of," he said. "We aren't just selling coffee; we're changing people's lives and it feels good to be able to do that."
Additionally, on Friday between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. all drinks will be 25 percent off, and Dean Cycon, founder of Dean's Beans, the fair trade coffee company Donkey uses, will speak on "Social Justice and Coffee" at 7 p.m.
"The clientele is one of the best things about this job," said Evan Lily, Donkey barista since 2007. "We get a lot of regulars, we form relationships with them, and it becomes a very pleasant experience."
Donkey will also be unveiling its new upstairs apartments and open-air patio, a new T-shirt design, and products of its new bakery. The patio and apartments are slated to open May 1.
"When I look back at Donkey over the last 10 years, it's really humbling because we didn't know if it would even be open for six months," Chris Pyle said. "Most of it is the customers and the employees. I hope we have another 10, 20 or 30 years. It would be great to be able to pass this on to my kids eventually."