How a Pomeroy Coffeehouse Survived a Flood, and Thrived

Larry and Candice Hess wanted a coffee shop that complemented the mornings by the Ohio River in Pomeroy. They saw a building on the riverfront. They eventually purchased it and River Roasters Coffee Company was born. 

But it was harder than just buying the building and opening up shop.

During the renovation of the building, other Pomeroy business owners and residents stopped in nearly every day to check the progress of the construction. But then the Ohio River crested at about 50 feet, setting back nearly all of their work in February 2018.  

The couple had to rethink their construction plans to prevent from future flooding. 

“We were in a spot that was actually beneficial for us to see what a flood looked like, if that makes sense at all,” Larry says.  

The same community members who were checking on the progress of the building offered to lend their help. “[Residents] didn’t ask who we were or where we were from,” Larry says. “They said, ‘What do you want me to do?’”  

Photo by Courtney Perrett

The couple used locally-sourced materials, and the community’s support to help build the café into a gathering place for the community. 

Larry was once a graphic designer and photographer. He provides his skills for free for the shop and events including the Blues Bash and the Cabin Fever Fest. 

The café has photos of the old riverfront in Pomeroy, quotes about their coffee and comfortable seats on an open floor. 

Customers are greeted with the smell of freshly ground coffee, waffles, pastries and grilled sandwiches. 

When Kyle King, a Pomeroy native who is now a general manager of a coffee shop in Auburn, Alabama, first went to River Roasters, he saw 15 people that he knew from different walks of life and different communities within Pomeroy. 

“I think I will forever have that warm feeling when I walk into River Roasters because that familiarity was already there,” King says. 

That same warm feeling that King felt when he first visited can be felt beyond the café’s coffee and food. The Hesses even serve on multiple planning boards in the community for major events. 

“We have a heart for making an impact in rural communities,” Larry says. 

They are involved in an international non-profit trade organization for the specialty coffee industry, the Specialty Coffee Association, which gives the Hesses hope to develop partnerships on the national stage. 

“For a small town like Pomeroy, that thought that the death of them was going to be the lowering of coal usage, it’s great to see this kind of renaissance coming back to a small town,” Larry says.   

Larry and Candice are also grateful they get to bring a place like River Roasters to Pomeroy—a shop that serves people from as far as China or Guatemala to as close as right down the street.  

“We’re happy to be able to give this community something like this, something to be proud of,” Larry says. “They definitely are proud of River Roasters.”