Food & Dining

Senoia Coffee & Cafe a nod to town's history

by Bradley Hartsell


The building of Senoia Coffee & Cafe used to be a grocery store run by Benjamin Nolan before closing in the 1940s. The Pengellys have since expanded and renovated the building. 

In the beginning, there was Hollberg’s Fine Furniture and Hutchinson Hardware.

Then, in downtown Senoia, at the turn of the new millennium, a local coffee shop opened. The shop — then called Senoia Coffee Company — may have seemed a fleeting endeavor, but the Pengellys, Suzanne and David, had a vision they believed in.

“We loved Senoia,” said Suzanne Pengelly, who moved to the town with her husband in 1992. “We looked at all the tiny towns before we decided to buy and we felt Senoia had something special. Hollberg’s and Hutchinson’s were the only two business, but we saw this building for sale and it was just perfect for what we wanted to do.”

The structure was added by a member of Senoia’s founding family, Benjamin Nolan, in the 1920s as a grocery store. Nolan, who went on to be editor and publisher of the “Senoia Enterprise Gazette,” died in 1956 and the building sat vacant for nearly 60 years, according to Pengelly. A picture of Nolan and his father hangs in the coffee shop.

When the Pengellys first considered purchasing the building, the couple knew the age showed considerably, but the state of disrepair did little to dissuade them.

“The building was falling on its knees. It was rough,” said Pengelly.

The Pengellys were extensive travelers and developed an affinity for coffee from all over the world. Pengelly says her husband, in particular, cultivated a deep fascination with coffee, and combined with their love of food and entrepreneurship, the couple knew they wanted to open a coffee shop.

The Pengellys attended a school in Idaho to “learn the art of roasting coffee.”

“We really learned freshness made a difference. It’s very meticulous, making coffee,” said Pengelly. “It was a great learning experience. We love showing people the roasting experience because they gain an appreciation for the coffee that they buy and they drink.”

It didn’t take the people of Senoia long to connect with the Pengelly’s way of making coffee. Before the shop, those who wanted coffee had to buy it prepacked from the store or grab a cup at the gas station.

“But Senoia Coffee Company opened their minds to a whole new side of coffee,” said Pengelly. “It just worked.” “We taught everyone how to enjoy freshly roasted coffee,” said Pengelly, whose coffee has been known to be sent as gifts by customers to friends and family overseas.

The Pengellys sold Senoia Coffee Company in 2002, only to repurchase it in 2008, renaming it Senoia Coffee & Cafe to acknowledge their expanded lunch menu and unique wines and beers. They could never let go of the glimmer and allure of the business they built.

“[When we sold] we could have kicked ourselves because we loved it,” Pengelly said. “Once you create something, it’s your baby. It’s hard to go into a place and see the changes.”

The philosophy of premium is one the Pengellys apply to every aspect of Senoia Coffee & Cafe, and not just the coffee. Suzanne Pengelly is serious about her lunch and dinner menus.

The cafe also features entertainment — a quarterly comedy night called “Clean Laughs Show.” Pengelly owns an entertainment-based business and her husband is an entertainer, so the Pengellys bring their connections to Senoia.

Senoia Coffee & Cafe just celebrated its 14th anniversary, and the Pengellys feel it is the desire to take such good care of their “baby” that has led the small business into forming such a big following.

“I usually don’t drink coffee, but I come here,” said longtime customer Warren Dunn, who is simply known around the shop as “Yank.”

“I used to work in the railroad here, so I’ve been coming for years,” he said. Pengelly gushes about the feeling of community that’s popped up in the shop. Customers like Dub Pearman, who lives a block away and comes almost every day, add to that strong sense of community. Pearman says he and his neighbors just need six chairs when they frequent Senoia Coffee. “We’re not real picky about where, just as long as we’re close to one another.”

Pengelly is happy to oblige. Last year, Benjamin Nolan’s daughter, Charlotte, passed away at age 94. She had become a fixture at the coffee shop, and Pengelly recalls the great stories she’d tell about growing up in Senoia and working side by side with her dad. One of the last things Pengelly remembers asking Nolan was whether the building was a friendly place during its days as a grocery store.

Nolan recalled the times when men would gather weekly to swap stories and news from across the little town. She called it “a gathering place.” It moves Pengelly that today Senoia Coffee & Cafe is still a gathering place, citing the weekly women’s group that recently braved the freezing weather to meet in the Cafe.

Fourteen years ago, something about Senoia and the old Nolan building spoke to the Pengellys. Today, Senoia Coffee & Cafe is a staple of the town’s charm. Many couldn’t imagine it working 14 years ago. Now, they can’t imagine Senoia without it.

More Close Up

A hope sanctuary

CTCA opens doors to support group lounge

From the outside, Cancer Treatment Centers of America at Southeastern in Newnan is ever-expanding, adding to its building that opened in 201 ... Read More

Healthy Living

Elliott retires after 55 years at Piedmont Newnan

Work is something people either like or do not like. After 55 years at Piedmont Newnan Hospital and the former Newnan Hospital, Virginia Ell ... Read More

Radioactive Fallout

Hayward, Wayne may have been victims

Tough movie cowboy John Wayne and Susan Hayward, the Academy Award-winning actress who lived for several years in Carroll County, may have d ... Read More

Senior Living

Coweta centers offer activities

Coweta senior centers both in Newnan and outlying communities offer a variety of activities weekly. Tommy Thompson Senior Center, 29 Hospita ... Read More

Health Happenings

• Free dental exams and cleanings are offered to children in the Newnan community at It’s A Small World Children’s Dentistr ... Read More

Atkins’ workshop takes children around world

With music and movement, the children on the upper floor of the Carnegie Library traveled around the world. Actress, singer and dance instru ... Read More