The place to be: Landis coffee shop offers community table

Published 12:01 am Sunday, January 8, 2023

Looking for a peaceful place around the corner to sip a cup of coffee? Something is brewing in Landis. 

Creating a community hangout with a caffeinated lifeblood was always the goal for Willowbrook Grounds owner Torrie Jarrett.

“People bond over coffee and eating,” Jarrett said. “You break bread, and you communicate. People find comfort in coffee, matcha, or a good bakery piece. In that comfort, they feel the willingness to swap stories with you.”

Jarrett knew that opening a coffee shop in Landis and tapping into a long-dormant vein within the community would come with risks, but she quickly realized that the town was taking notice. 

“People started dropping in here as we were building it out and asking what was going on,” Jarrett said. “We told them our purpose here is to bring life back to the community.”

For Jarrett, a preacher’s daughter, the message was always about communicating a higher love. 

“We were taught you spread the love of Jesus everywhere you go,” Jarrett said. “In this coffee shop, that was the main training. We will figure out how to make this coffee, but I need you to commit to making sure everybody feels love when they leave.”

Before the brew

Jarrett had a salon in Kannapolis called Charisma, but having children required a life change. She and her husband, Brenton, bought a forty-acre farm and moved the family to China Grove, where they now live with their four children.

The farm became a source for a concept that has become the Jarretts’ brand.

“When we bought our farm, it had a creek running through it, which is small like a brook, and we planted willows on our property, so that is how Willowbrook was started,” Jarrett said. “Willows have always been my favorite tree. I feel like they are so peaceful … you feel so relaxed watching them.”

The peaceful nature of the farm is one Jarrett aims to replicate in all of her business ventures. Although she spent much time working on designs for the couple’s custom-home construction company, Willowbrook Builders, Jarrett was missing the personal connection of being in a face-to-face position with clients and customers. 

“I felt like a void in my life,” Jarrett said. “I started praying about it and just wanted God to guide me.”

Throughout her prayers, Jarrett kept feeling called to Landis. Even though she still wasn’t sure what she was going to do, every time she drove through Landis, she felt that God was sending her a sign. One day it hit her that Landis needed a coffee shop. She decided that was the sign God was trying to give her. 

Although an avid coffee consumer, Jarrett had minimal personal experience making the morning drink. 

“I had been trying out things at home, but I knew nothing of how to make a good cup of coffee,” Jarrett said. 

Not accepting any setbacks, Jarrett set out to find a manager to bring the vision to life. Hannah Wagner proved an answer to prayers. 

“I wanted to have a steady face for the community,” Jarrett said.

Wagner, who grew up in Rowan County said that the strip in Landis where Willowbrook Grounds is now always felt like a middle ground to get to something else. 

“There was not really a reason to stop,” Wagner said. “So it is really cool to see the change now.”

Being part of the re-emergence of the downtown Landis area has inspired Wagner.

“You see other people who want to be proud of where they are from and have things to do and invest in,” Wagner said. “It’s cool to now be a reason people want to stop.”

The manager pointed out that for them, every transaction is more about forming a relationship with community members than simply taking a drink order. 

“One of the big things that each of us try to focus on is we want the coffee to be a bridge to connection,” Wagner said. “We care about the quality of the coffee, but we want it to go past that. Each person that comes up, when they are ordering, we try to ensure we are going the extra mile beyond that surface with that person in that moment.”

Friendly face with each cup

Barista Breezi Basinger uses faces to connect orders with regular customers. 

“If I have had that conversation with them about their day or their family or something,” Basinger said. “I can go, ‘Oh you’re so and so, that happened to you, and this is how you like your order.’ ” 

Presenting a friendly face with each cup is catching on. 

“I love their coffee,” customer Crystal Branem said. “It’s not just the atmosphere here. Their coffee is also really good. They are all really friendly and kind. They are very personable. Hannah (Wagner) remembers everything, all my drinks.”

Between the coffee and the company, Branem is happy to have them in town. 

“I do feel like they are what the area needs,” Branem said. “I feel like you bring some of the modern thoughts on coffee here to Landis.”

While Branem stops in for a coffee between making sales pitches, Whitney Yarbrough uses Willowbrook Grounds as a study lounge as she pursues a degree in accounting. 

“My son goes to preschool down the road,” Yarbrough said. “After I drop my son off, I usually stop here. I’ll stay here and get my schoolwork done.”

Yarbrough has a few different orders, depending on the time of day and the temperature outside. The Willowbrook namesake is her favorite drink. It is a house latte made with cardamom and vanilla. However, she is also fond of a menu item that might catch one off guard called the coffee united. 

“That is a really good refresher,” Yarbrough said. “It is lemonade and coffee together.”

Jarrett added, “You gotta come by and order it. It’s a best seller signature.”

Other unique concoctions include a strawberry-infused cold brew called the Patterson. 

Willowbrook Grounds is located at 15 S. Central Ave. in Landis. The shop opens at 7 a.m. on Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. on Saturday.