HAMPTON, Va. — Firehouse Coffee 1881 has a long history.
For one, the building was once the oldest firehouse in the U.S. Army.
Located near the water in Fort Monroe, you can tell when you arrive this place no longer is a fire station, but the history still lingers inside the coffee shop.
Donna Wray is the current owner, but that hasn't always been the case. Wray was grabbing coffee with friends in 2018 when she says she noticed the owner was ready to hang things up.
"It just happened, out of the blue," she said.
Wray had never been there before. She watched as the owner seemed more frustrated during her visit. Wray said the next part of the story was a "God thing:" she asked the owner how much to buy the place.
"My husband and I had plans to move back to the Panhandle. Everything was in motion, but things change. Here we are, surprise," she laughed.
Wray became the owner of Firehouse Coffee 1881 in January of 2019. She says she owes all the glory to God.
"I didn't want this, but God had another idea. I know nothing about firetrucks. This is totally out of my motif, but I've learned a lot," she said.
Though it's been hard, she wouldn't change it for the world. For her, this spot is home, and she wants to share it with anyone who comes through the door.
"When people walk in, we want them to know that this is their place, it's community. It's a place they can come and just bring their laptop and sit for hours and do what they need to do," she said. "We have toys, so when the mothers come in, and they want to have a day, we've got toys here to entertain the children," she smiled.
The atmosphere when you're inside feels like home. The friendly people behind the counter, the community members visiting and the kids playing with the firetrucks on the floor give off a sense of family and peace. That's precisely how Wray wants it to be.
"We're just who we are," she said. "We just treat you like home, family, and that's what it is. Community is our family."
There's a good reason Hampton coffee drinkers love this place. They serve smooth coffee, homemade food and fresh pastries made in-house.
When it comes to the coffee, they keep it pretty simple, but the flavors are there. They have your standard menu items and flavors, plus a delicious cold brew with a "secret ingredient" to make it taste all the better.
When it comes to food, Wray takes pride in the fact that they make everything, including their signature chicken salad, in-house. The chicken salad has grapes and dill seasoning mixed in, which adds a good kick of flavor to a croissant bun.
However, that's not the only food Wray's proud to serve.
"My husband smokes our pulled pork. Which is really, really good," Wray explained. She said they sell out of the pulled pork every single time it's on the menu.
If you're in the mood for dessert, they have unique ice cream creations and fresh pastries made by Payton Horton.
Horton is a 21-year-old pastry chef currently in culinary school. She told us working at the coffee house before she has her degree is a blessing. She creates muffins with unique flavors and a comforting taste; they made me feel at home in one bite.
"We like to tantalize the pallet," Wray said. "We want things that are different. You know? We're just different and we like being different. We want to give people an experience," Wray said.
When asked why Firehouse Coffee 1881 is so special, Wray became emotional.
"It's the people," she said. "Because during COVID, there were days that we didn't think -- that 'I' didn't think -- that we were going to make it, and it was a test of faith. This community really pulled together, and I thank them all," she said.
While 13News Now was visiting, you could tell this community loves Wray, and she them. People would come and talk to her. She would ask them about their family, kids and dogs; it is a family. That bond is strong.
Even though Wray is the owner on paper, she said this place doesn't belong to her.
"It's not for me. It's for them [the community]. I may own this, but it's for them. It's theirs, it's the community's, it's their place," she smiled.
You can find Firehouse Coffee 1881 at 1 Ruckman Rd, Hampton.
If you'd like to attend their Bible study on Tuesdays, you can learn more by going to their Facebook page.