Photograph by John Antaki
Sip – Harlem Java House
Coffee is integral to our culture. We drink it when we wake up, we use it as an excuse to get together with friends, we drink it at home and on the go. For Deborah Stickney, owner of Harlem Java House, coffee has been a part of her life since she was a child and her mom would put a drop of coffee in her milk “for flavor.” With a colorful cultural heritage of Ethiopian, Italian and American, coffee is in her blood.
After living all over the world, the military brought her to the Augusta area, and she decided to make Harlem her home. Harlem Java House was born out of a desire to contribute something to her new home. When the perfect building opened up, a perfectly priced espresso machine became available, and some encouragement from the owners of Buona Caffe all aligned perfectly, she knew she had to give it a shot. As a Navy veteran, Stickney was no stranger to hard work, and she managed to renovate the historic building, in the heart of downtown Harlem, while still working full time. When Harlem Java House opened in December 2016, it was immediately welcomed with open arms by the community.
With an impressive team of women behind the counter – some vets, others local – Harlem Java House serves up everything from traditional espresso and black coffee to lattes, frappes and cold brew. The most unique addition to the Java House family came in the form of a beautifully renovated Shasta Camper they call the JavaBago, allowing the team to take coffee on the road for special events like weddings and festivals.
With the ability to fill a void in the area, both for Harlem natives and military transplants like herself, Stickney and her team have been able to build up a following of both regulars and those who stop in when passing through the growing town for day trips and events like the Oliver Hardy Festival. “I took a chance on this town because I felt like it needed something,” Stickney says. With people showing up daily for drinks like the creme brûlée latte, caramel frappe with house-made syrup, or just their daily cup of joe, Harlem Java House has proved that it was a chance worth taking.
Note: The JavaBago can be rented for events! Pricing is available on the website or you can call Harlem Java House for a quote at 706-449-8245.
EAT – Broad Street Ministry Center
There’s little that feels better than giving back in a big way, and that’s exactly what Broad Street Ministry Center is doing in downtown Augusta. Director Eric Mongillo and wife Kristina manage the food pantry year-round but are always making time for special projects. When the former director passed away unexpectedly two years ago, an interim director stepped in temporarily to keep the center going.
The Mongillo family, who had volunteered at BSMC on and off for several years, felt called to go all in, and Eric quit his job as a registered nurse in behavioral health to take on the directorship full time. The unexpected transition within the center also provided the opportunity for expansion and renovation, resulting in an updated multi-purpose room, kid room, multiple rooms of clothing and shoes, an adult literacy program and more!
The holiday season sees one of their biggest ventures of the year: Project 61. For two nights the week before Thanksgiving and two nights the week before Christmas, holiday meal boxes are distributed for families in need that have signed up and meet eligibility requirements. The rooms are decorated with festive cheer, and a dessert buffet is set up with tables available for participants to sit down and enjoy the festive environment. Each family box includes a turkey at Thanksgiving and a ham at Christmas, plus all of the fixings, dessert, socks for everyone in the family, a devotional, and a game for the family to enjoy together. With the goal being to help over 500 families this holiday season, the project requires an immense amount of resources. It costs $35 to feed each family, plus additional desserts for the distribution events and volunteers to help decorate, package and serve.
Both the general food pantry, which is open Tuesdays and Thursdays all year, and the distribution events provide the biggest opportunity for ministry. Whenever someone new comes in, whether a student, a struggling family, veteran, etc., they get to sit down with a volunteer and go over what is in their bags. It’s an outlet for further ministry and helping in ways beyond hunger, allowing volunteers to help everyone who walks through their doors by fitting them with a suit for an interview, connecting them to additional support programs, or just providing someone to listen. “They don’t just leave here with food. They leave here with hope and a direction,” says Kristina.
It’s easy to tell that the entire team of volunteers, including the Mongillos’ eight children, are passionate about helping the community by providing both food and love. If you’re interested in contributing, whether by sponsoring a family meal, volunteering or donating supplies, you can find more information at the ministry’s website,
bsmcaugusta.org, or for Project 61 specifically, at www.gofundme.com/f/helping-families-in-Augusta-ga-for-the-holidays.
Broad Street Ministry Center is always in need of volunteers and donations, both monetary as well as food and hygiene products, throughout the year. Specific needs are updated on the website, bsmcaugusta.org, and Facebook page, but staples that are always needed include gallon- and quart-sized freezer bags, feminine products, diapers, toothbrushes and local grocery store and Walmart gift cards.
Artisan – The Purple Hull
“The first time you come in we treat you like a guest. The second time we treat you like family,” Ray Henderson Jr. tells me as we sit down to chat about The Purple Hull Market and Eatery. And a family is definitely what I see as I look around at the staff prepping for the weekend steak night. The Southern-style cooking has been heavily influenced by several of the people behind the counter who have been cooking for their own families for decades. What began as a small farmers market has turned into a full-blown family affair.
Henderson, a youth pastor for 20 years, started The Purple Hull with his brother-in-law Jody Glover, who owns the BBQ Barn next door. Seeing an opportunity to support local farms and businesses, they opened the market in June 2017 with a new building and a produce stand. But as the harvest season wound down, they realized another need – a place for people in the area to get good, homestyle cooking. That winter they started the hot bar during lunch hours, allowing people to choose from a variety of dishes on their lunch break and providing to-go boxes but also comfortable tables and chairs for customers to make themselves at home.
Over the past couple of years the response to dishes like cubed steak, fried chicken, grilled street corn and black-eyed peas has grown to the point where The Purple Hull decided to start doing “Steak Night” on the weekends. Despite the name, the menu is full of other Southern favorites besides their impressive rib-eyes and includes options like fried catfish, center-cut pork chops and burgers.
As of this fall, The Purple Hull has even added a Saturday morning breakfast menu with eggs, homemade biscuits and locally sourced sausage and bacon from Caughman’s in Lexington, S.C. What’s on the menu and in the market rotates seasonally, with public response being, “this is the way we used to eat,” and regularly coming back for more, whether it’s to pick up local honey or steaks to take home, for lunch during the workday, or for supper with friends on the weekends. The warm welcome and good food draws in first-time guests and turns them into family.
Appears in the November/December 2019 issue of Augusta Magazine.