Coffee shops have long embraced the role of community stewards – cultivating welcoming spaces where neighbors can gather together for conversation; work alongside each other in quiet camaraderie; or simply enjoy an expertly crafted beverage.
For Shockoe Bottom’s Ironclad Coffee Roasters, which celebrated its first anniversary this summer, this role is something they’ve truly taken to heart as evidenced in part by the neighborhood trash pickups the coffee parlor organizes the last Saturday of each month. But it’s also uniquely fitting, given the café’s home in a former firehouse because, after all, there are few greater stewards of the community than first responders.
Tucked into the renovated former home of the No. 2 Hook and Ladder Company on East Grace Street, Ironclad still retains its unmistakable sense of place. Originally commissioned in 1884, the historic building still boasts that giveaway garage door which used to welcome fire engines but today is rolled up whenever the weather allows – in what is perhaps the best example of an open door policy, allowing guests to fluidly move in an out of the space. Artwork, archival photos, and relics of yesteryear – including vintage ladders – adorn the exposed brick walls. An antique shoeshine bench, the original from Richmond’s Jefferson Hotel, stands guard just behind the coffee bar, allowing guests an $8 shoeshine, complete with a complimentary cup of coffee, while sitting where such legends as Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin, and Elvis Presley are purported to have sat while swing, blues, and jazz tunes, reminiscent of another era, dance through the more than 130 year old building.
Inspired by his five years spent living in Europe, and what he felt was missing from that experience, founder Ryan O’Rourke began Ironclad with a commitment to providing both an outstanding product as well as exceptional customer service.
The coffee roasted and brewed by Ironclad has been thoughtfully sourced from growers and farms that prioritize ethics and sustainability, and above all else, quality. The beverage options range from single origin coffees for the purists, to specialty lattes with flavors ranging from lavender vanilla to seasonal favorites including pumpkin spice and gingerbread, to the new cookie milk latte made with cookies from Pearl’s Bake Shoppe.
As Ironclad has grown, so too has their culinary menu options. In the beginning the café offered a modest but tempting selection of baked goods sourced through local bakeries, but quickly expanded into breakfast sandwiches, and with the addition of a kitchen, a lineup of lunch offerings as well.
In its one year, Ironclad has hosted everything from yoga pop-ups in the mezzanine and side courtyard, to makers markets, live music, and Santa visits – finding its footing as a welcoming community living room in one of Richmond's most historic districts.
Ironclad Coffee Roasters is located at 1804 East Grace Street.