Inside... Abigail's Coffeehouse!
by Amy Blythe
I sank deeper into the buttery leather of the couch, soaking in the warmth of quintessential small town America unfolding around me.
A regular customer, greeted with a cheery “Good morning! The usual?”
The buzzing chatter of friends gathered over lattes.
The clicking of a keyboard, and a student who smiles up as his now cold coffee is replaced by a steaming cup.
A bowl being filled with fresh water for the pup waiting by the table outside.
Children discussing the finer points in a mint chip versus cookie dough debate, faces pressed longingly against the ice cream cooler.
It’s an idyllic picture of home-- all that Ligonier is, captured under the roof of our favorite coffee shop: Abigail’s Coffeehouse.
Opened in 1998 by the Buckwalter family, Abigail’s on Fairfield Street quickly became a local favorite. By 2000, the shop and their famous Mochaccino Rockets moved to their permanent home on the Diamond. When the Buckwalters were ready to pass the business on in 2004, a dear friend, whose own daughters were being raised on pre-library Story Hour lemonades and post-preschool pepperoni rolls, came to mind. Dianne Stewart is originally from Squirrel Hill, having spent her summers in her aunt’s Ligonier cottage. Having fallen in love with the town, she dreamed of moving back and one day owning her own coffeeshop - a dream fulfilled at Abigail’s.
I was fortunate enough to sit down with her daughter, Ruthie. Ruthie grew up doing her homework in the kitchen, snoozing on the couch, and hanging out with her friends at Abigail’s. Now, she helps her mom to run the shop she calls home.
Live, Love Ligonier (LLL): Hi, Ruthie! Abigail’s is a staple in Ligonier’s community. It is a natural gathering place, and feels like home to so many of us. Why do you think that is?
Ruthie: Hey! So first of all, thank you. I’m glad that you and so many others feel that way, because Abigail’s is home for me. I really think that's a huge part of it. It’s a place we love and feel comfortable in, and that rubs off on everyone else. I also think the way the shop smells is part of it! I often joke that I pump that coffee smell out on the street because so many people walk in and compliment it. I don't know if it's the coffee, or maybe the pepperoni rolls, but there's something about it that adds to the atmosphere. It fills you up when you walk in the door and puts you at peace.
LLL: It’s obvious that the coffee shop is more than just coffee. Can you tell us about Abigail’s vision for its role in the community? It seems like this is something you’re very intentional about.
Ruthie: We’re so much more than coffee! We’re also sandwiches, ice cream, and baked goods-- a little bit of everything, including heart. So yes, we’re very intentional. Both mom and I want Abigail’s to be a household name, and not just because it’s where you pick up lunch. Your daughter walks here after school and gets her after school snack here. She puts it on the gift certificate that we keep in the drawer for her. We know that Judith shows up between 7 and 7:30AM unless it’s cold and rainy, because then it’s more like 7:30 or 8AM. If she doesn't show up by then, we call until we get an answer to make sure she's doing okay. We love being a gathering place and home. I have customers come in and tell me about when they would hang out here in high school, and how their kids hang out here now.
LLL: Tell me about your staff. It seems like you’re all best friends!
Ruthie: Best friends and family. We are very intentional about who we hire. Most of the people who work with us are family. Between the Stewarts and the Buckwalters, Abigail’s has had over 13 sets of family members work for us-- sisters, cousins, and siblings. In the last year we hired Nicole, and thought she would be a first generation hire. It turns out that her aunt worked for the Buckwalters when she was in high school! One of our sandwiches, The Turtle, was her creation. So we definitely have a type.
LLL: The friendly staff isn’t the only thing to love about Abigail’s. The renovations look amazing! Can you tell me more about the updates and what inspired the look?
Ruthie: I’m so happy you like it! My mom and I came up with the look together if you ask me, but she keeps telling everyone I did it. Either way, I am so happy with how it has developed. We wanted a more modern vibe. We're taking our time adding decorations and accents so everything is just how we want it. I was really inspired by our machines. Our espresso machine, (Francesca, Fran for short), airpots, and coffee pot are all black and steel so we wanted to go with an industrial vibe to match. Of course we still had to accent in our signature RED!
LLL: New Diamond Park, new modern look for Abigails! Can you tell me about your experience of the Diamond Park Renovation project?
Ruthie: Our experience was good. We are so excited about the new look and watching the bandstand change color as the years go by. It was a long project, but the results speak for themselves. It’s truly going to bring so much joy to our community for years to come.
LLL: You know what brings me joy? This chai tea latte. It’s my favorite thing on your menu. What are some other customer favorites? What food and drink would you suggest to a person who has never been here before?
Ruthie: I am so glad you asked this because we love when you ASK YOUR BARISTAS! We are always so excited to share whatever we have been creating. Half the fun of being a barista is coming up with something new. Anything on our boards is amazing and the majority of them are drinks our baristas have come up with. We also have a list of staff favorites listed in the store, so look for that. One of my favorites is our affogatos. You take a scoop and a half of ice cream in a mug, then pour a shot of espresso over it. Honestly, it’s to die for!
LLL: Well, I know what I’m ordering the next time I come in! What upcoming events or specials can we look forward to?
Ruthie: We have a couple things coming down the pipeline! I always suggest keeping an eye on our Facebook page. We keep everyone up to date there. I always like to remind people we will be open in the summer for the band concerts. This year we will have some fun things going on to welcome the concerts back to the Diamond. We’re also so excited to announce our partnership with the Pie Shoppe (in Laughlintown)! We will be featuring their donuts, snails, and gobs, because what goes better with the best coffee in town than the best baked goods in town?
LLL: Nothing could be better! Is there anything you’d like to say to your neighbors and patrons?
Ruthie: I’ve made some of my best friends though the store. I’ve watch people's kids grow up-- kids I love. We have customers who have become like my grandparents, aunts, and uncles. This crazy, fun, loud, 20-year connection with our community… there’s nothing like it. So, thank you. To the neighbors and patrons who have become friends and the friends that have become family: thank you for making us your family's place, your favorite spot, your go-to when your friend is in town. Thank you!
LLL: So my last question, how do I get you to pull my name for the patron of the week for next week?!
Ruthie: Oh this one is so easy, I really need to make a sign. You need one of our Coffee Club cards: buy 10 drinks, get one free. They have a spot for your name, so when you get your free drink, you give us the card to put into a bucket. We draw a new winner each week. It's that simple! When you win, you can choose between 5 free brewed coffees or 3 free speciality drinks! Plus, bragging rights, of course.
Abigail’s Coffeehouse pours more than coffee: It pours out heart and a love for this community that is stronger than its dark roast. It pours out the very essence of Ligonier -- warm, charming, home. Come and see. Sit and taste. See you soon. They’ll put the coffee on.