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Christian Deiss: From the track to the kitchen

Clare and Pat Pelley of Books & Brews in Hurricane. Courtesy photo
Pat Pelley (right) as a high school runner in Central Pennsylvania. Courtesy photo

I have been writing my column for the last couple of months at a local café on Main Street in Hurricane called Books & Brews.

I not only found the establishment a pleasant place to write and concentrate, but I also found out the owner used to run track and cross country, which got me thinking about this week’s column.

After giving up his position as a vice president of Safety for a local coal company at the age of 27, Pat Pelley and his wife, Clare, decided to get in the restaurant business and opened Books & Brews in the fall of 2015.

But before that all happened, I found out that he was a successful runner during his secondary school days in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “I started running when I was in fourth grade,” he said. “By my senior year in high school, I was the captain of our cross country team, putting in about 50-60 miles a week. My best competitive 5K (3.1 miles) was in the low 17s (minutes) and during the track season, my best mile was a 4:30 and two-mile was a 9:45.”

Though Pelley spent his childhood in Central Pennsylvania, he was born in Wheeling and got his degree in mine engineering from West Virginia University.

So, there you have it, a runner, who goes underground for his first job and then decides to open a specialty café in downtown Hurricane. I was confused a little -- well, I was until I talked to the young chef about the major change in his and his family’s life.

“I always wanted to work for myself,” Pelley said. “I always wanted to do my own thing with regards to owning and running my own business. I thought about opening a coffee shop café, because, well, I like coffee and I like to eat and I know other people do, too. So we looked around and talked to Ben Newhouse, Hurricane’s City Manager, and I was happy to hear they wanted to revive the Main Street area and that piqued my interest.”

So not long after, a deal was struck between the Pelleys and the city and Books & Brews was born.

For any new business opening, it’s difficult without the support of the local community. Pelley made it clear to me being accepted by the residents has been the easy part. “I think it has been very positive, as the reviews we have received on our Facebook page have been awesome. I realize you can’t please everyone, and I learned that in the mining business at a young age, but you can do your best to please the majority. A key to earning a customer’s respect and loyalty is when something messes up, it’s how you do your best to make it right for the customer and that’s what we do.”

I have yet to be in Books & Brews and not see all types of folks enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, which I appreciate as I write my column.

I have watched Pelley, through Books & Brews, help raise money for the Hurricane High School track and cross country teams, along with helping the Tri-County YMCA raise money that went to their financial assistance program. I asked Pelley why it is important for him to give back to the community.

“For a small business owner like myself,” he said, “if it wasn’t for the community, we would not exist. We are not a corporate chain; we are not relying on corporate money or corporate policies. Instead, we are relying on day-to-day operations from people with the community to come in and support our business and, in turn, we do our best to support those who help support us, which is the community itself.”

Pelley and his wife are part of the community along with their four children: John (3), Mary Ellen (20 months) and twins Edward and Theodore (4 months).

For more information, visit Books & Brews’ Facebook page or call 681-233-4005.

Christian Deiss, 13, of Scott Depot is a student at Hurricane Middle School.


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