Coffeehouse Rises from the Ashes
Magistra Nicolaa de Bracton
Editor for the Pennsic Independent
Since its debut as a coffeehouse at Pennsic XXXIII, Your Inner Vagabond has quickly become a highlight for many visitors, with its Middle Eastern ambiance, friendly atmosphere, and late hours. According to AJ and Andrew, the world-travelling couple behind YIV, the idea first emerged while they were merchanting during Pennsic XXXII in one of the bazaar spaces. They were set up as a lounge with their pillows and cushions, where they would brew mint tea for their guests. From that came the idea to expand into a full-service coffeehouse. Last year, they had to double in size because of popular demand.
Then the unexpected happened. On Mother’s Day of this year, the garage behind Andrew’s mother’s house where all the coffeehouse equipment and décor was stored was engulfed in flames when a tenant’s motorcycle caught fire.
Interestingly enough, according to AJ and Andrew, “it actually was a few days before we seriously considered not doing Pennsic. The thought just didn’t occur to us at first.” However, when they were unable to get into the garage to assess the damage for several days, they realized that it might not even be possible to replace everything in under three months. Luckily, when they were able to get into the ruins of the garage, they discovered that while only a few benches and some kitchen utensils survived from the coffeehouse itself, most of YIV’s online merchandise (cushions and pillows) was on the other side of the garage and was salvageable.
When news of the fire was posted on AJ and Andrew’s blog, the response was immediate. Over 1000 people visited their website the day after the news was posted, and the helpful and supportive e-mails flooded in. “Right away people wanted to help, and we quickly realized that, much as we hated to admit it, we needed the help,” said AJ and Andrew.
They decided to offer gift certificates to help raise money, and the local SCAdian community donated replacement equipement and helped out during a mid-June building weekend. And last year’s employees have helped them hire staff for this year. “Really, it’s the emotional support that meant more to us than anything. Buying a Gift Certificate didn’t just mean an influx of cash, it really showed us just how much people like YIV and that they believed in us enough to support our return,” said the couple. They added that they did not feel that rebuilding only enough to “make do” was fair to their customers, so they have “bit the bullet” and invested in upgraded equipment where possible to last the Coffeehouse for many years. “We tried to be judicious and realistic, but also do it right.”
If you’ve had a chance to stop by YIV at Pennsic this year, you’ve seen the results of several months of hard work. The atmosphere has returned, and the friendly service and good company seem to be there in abundance as well. Andrew noted on Friday that they had been quite pleased with the business, as well as the continuing expressions of support from the SCA community.
So, you can expect YIV to be a Pennsic fixture in years to come. As for AJ and Andrew, they hope to continue their vagabond lifestyle, perhaps with a visit to India. “Your Inner Vagabond doesn’t really want to settle down just yet. There’s still too big a world out there to not want to see more of it.”